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Lions grapple with injuries as Van Rooyen outlines tour goals

SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has revealed a 28-man squad for his side’s upcoming tour.

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The Johannesburg-based team will face Connacht and the Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship before they head to Italy for their Round of 16 Challenge Cup tie against Benetton.

If they win that match against the Italians then their tour will stretch to four weeks as they will play a quarterfinal on the road.

The Lions will depart on Tuesday without a couple of key players. One of them is star centre Henco van Wyk, who is out with a knee injury.

Ruan Venter, Corne Fourie and Travis Gordon are also on the injury list.

The players on the mend who could be called up to join the squad at a later stage are Gianni Lombard, Ruhan Straeuli, Rabz Maxwane and Rynhardt Jonker.

Meanwhile, Springbok Willem Alberts returns from injury and has been included in the squad.

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Lions grapple with injuries as Van Rooyen outlines tour goals

“We are travelling with a 28-man squad to hopefully accommodate a four-week tour,” said Van Rooyen.

“The first two games will be in the URC and it’s vitally important for us if you look at the log standings and how close everything is.

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“We want to get as many points as possible from the first two games. We all know how tough Connacht is in Galway. I think they have only lost against the Irish teams there.

“We then face the Ospreys, who managed to beat us in January [in the Challenge Cup] in the dying minutes, so it will be important for us to go there and rectify what we did.

“There are some good lessons from that game that we can take into it.”

On the Challenge Cup tie against Benetton, Van Rooyen added: “I think 14 out of the 23 that played this weekend four Italy is in the Benetton team, so we know that they are going to be full of confidence.

“It’s an opportunity for us to keep on fighting and stay alive in the EPCR.

“We will probably look to use the squad a little bit and see if we can beat them there and hopefully the week thereafter, we will go back to Connacht or Pau [for a quarterfinal].

“A couple of players could return from injury in week three or four, which we are excited about.

“A couple of guys have to keep on grinding, either getting healthier or keep on developing their game for us to consider for those last two games.”

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