Lions finally dealt a crumb of good news: Van der Linde cleared

2012-05-31 00:00

AND, finally, some good news for the Lions and coach John Mitchell ahead of Saturday evening’s Super Rugby derby against the buoyant Sharks at Ellis Park.

Facing a gloomy future away from the bright lights of Super Rugby, and reeling under a succession of defeats, injuries and citings, the beleaguered Lions were at last handed a crumb of comfort yesterday when Springbok prop CJ van der Linde was cleared of biting and will be available to play against the Sharks.

Sanzar judicial officer Paul Tully yesterday ruled that Van der Linde was held around the mouth by the forearm of a Force player.

“The cited player denied biting. He conceded that there were red marks on the forearm of the Force player consistent with what might have been made by teeth.

“There was no deliberate intention to bite and that the marks were more consistent with a forearm being used in a levering type motion. The matter was minor. The mark had resolved within 20 minutes of the incident.”

The Lions this week lost outstanding young fullback Jaco Taute to a shoulder injury which will require surgery and rules him out of possible Test action against England.

Taute has been playing in the midfield to cover a number of Lions’ injuries and former Sharks player and Springbok Butch James, returning from a four-week suspension, is likely to play at centre.

Mitchell may also consider another former Sharks centre, Waylon Murray, who is back from injury. James Kamana has again picked up a hamstring injury while scrumhalf Michael Bondesio is also doubtful. Lock Ruan Botha is unavailable as he has joined the SA U20 squad in Cape Town,

Sharks coach John Plumtree is waiting to hear whether young centre Paul Jordaan, also in the SA U20 World Cup squad, will be released to play on Saturday. This seems highly unlikely and, with Tim Whitehead still injured, JP Pietersen could be back at outside centre with Louis Ludik or Odwa Ndungane on the wing.

Plumtree has now ruled out a number of changes he was considering after the Stormers win. Plumtree spoke of resting a number of key Springboks in the front row and loose forward to make use of the fresh legs of Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Ryan Kankowski , Ndungane and Ludik.

“There are a couple of players who are desperate for game time,” he said, adding that he was also concerned some Boks may have their focus on the Tests against England — the first is in Durban next weekend — rather than the Lions.

But Plumtree is desperate for the Sharks to maintain the momentum which has carried them to four successive wins.

“We need to hit the Lions with everything we have. This is a must-win game for us and we can’t send out the message that we are underestimating the Lions, who have given us a hard time in Johannesburg in the last few seasons,” said Plumtree.

“Beating us would make the Lions’ season, and after what they have been through, they will be going all out to do that.”

The match on Saturday kicks off at 5.05 pm and New Zealander Garratt Williamson will referee the game with Jonathan Kaplan taking charge of the crunch game at Loftus between the Bulls and Stormers at 7.10 pm.

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