Johannesburg - The Lions will have to contemplate life without their star lock Franco van der Merwe for this weekend’s game against the Western Force at Coca-Cola Park.
Van der Merwe hobbled off the field during the Lions’ 51-11 defeat at the hands of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and it is unknown exactly what the extent of his injury is until he is assessed this morning.
“We’re not sure how serious it is,” Lions coach Dick Muir said after Saturday’s loss, and he will be holding thumbs that Van der Merwe, one of the standout performers in the squad – where there have been few to talk about – recovers soon to take his place.
It may have been a tough sad that when Van der Merwe went off the Lions structure fell apart in defence, and the Bulls punished them rather badly in the last half hour of the contest, running in five tries in the last 20 minutes.
“Franco has been huge for us and he has really put in the hard work. We hope it is not going to be too serious, so we will have to keep our fingers crossed because we certainly missed him in the second half,” Muir admitted.
Muir was happy with his side’s defence for much of the game, but conceded that when things went wrong, they went horribly wrong in the final stages of the game. He did, though, have a tinge of a smile when he said his team had “probably done South African rugby a favour.”
“I must say it is a fine line between success and failure,” Muir said. “When you have a mature side like the Bulls, one has to give credit where it is due. They are a side that looks for that weakness and when they find it they really exploit you. Hats off to them they needed the bonus point win today and they got it when it was needed.
“It was a combination of injuries and losing our structure a little bit. I need to re-look at the penalty count, it was just unacceptable. We just got to go back to the drawing board and regroup.”
The Lions will be looking for their first win of the season against the Force. But if their structure cannot hold for the 80 minutes on defence, their long season could get even longer.