Vodacom Super Rugby
Lions coach holds breath
Cape Town - Lions coach John Mitchell is hoping several of his injured players will pass fitness tests in order to face the Crusaders in Johannesburg on Saturday.Beeld
reports that Alwyn Hollenbach's potential recovery from a hamstring injury could be a massive boost for Mitchell's side.
The Lions' current injury crisis means that Mitchell will only announce his side on Friday. He wants to give some players as much time as possible to recover.
The midfield positions are of particular concern. This comes after Doppies la Grange picked up a serious elbow injury in their loss to the Stormers last Saturday, with the centre becoming the latest in a long line of injured players.
Mitchell said before the Stormers game they had 11 players absent that would have made the starting line-up. He described it as the worst injury crisis he's ever experienced in his coaching career.
But Hollenbach's injury seems to be improving and he'll get a chance to prove that he's ready to tackle the Crusaders.
Besides Hollenbach, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and wing Lionel Mapoe will also have to prove their fitness to the coach.
Mapoe is a versatile player that can also be utilised at centre. He also has a hamstring injury, which has kept him out of all of their Super Rugby matches so far this season.
Jantjies started the Super Rugby season with a record nine penalty goals in a victory over the Cheetahs, but missed their last two games against the Stormers and Sharks due to a foot injury.
The Lions will know they have a massive task on their hand against the seven-time champions.
The Crusaders' scrum, headed by the Frank brothers, Owen and Ben, demolished the Cheetahs in that department over the weekend before injuries to the Cheetahs props resulted in uncontested scrums.
Caylib Oosthuizen and Pat Cilliers did well against the Stormers, but they are sure to be tested come Saturday.
Lineouts have also been the Johannesburg outfit's Achilles-heel this season, with them losing 13 of their own throw-ins in four matches.
But the Lions can take heart from the fact that the Cheetahs stole possession 23 times against the Crusaders last week, while the New Zealanders also slipped 24 tackles - a statistic the potent Lions backline will look to exploit.