Currie Cup

Lions go into Currie Cup run-in with arguably the 'best' casualty list

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Sti Sithole
Sti Sithole
  • The Lions might have three injury concerns in their camp, but it can be argued that they're not necessarily all that crippling.
  • Influential loosehead Sti Sithole's absence is the only one that could be felt as he's been in great form since local rugby's resumption.
  • Coach Ivan van Rooyen says while his troops are wary of the plucky Pumas, they're targeting a full house of log points.

Any coach will tell you that no injuries remain an elusive nirvana of sorts, but the Lions are relatively close to that privileged state of affairs going into their Currie Cup run-in.

Earlier this week, the franchise announced that utility back EW Viljoen, wing Jamba Ulengo and loosehead Sti Sithole are the only players who won't be in contention to face the Pumas on Saturday as well as the Bulls next week.

What makes that situation surprisingly favourable is that only Sithole, who'd been outstanding before tearing a pectoral muscle, had been a regular starter.

Viljoen and Ulengo, who have hamstring and knee problems respectively, have only featured very sporadically in the domestic campaign to date.

In fact, the argument could be made that the duo haven't played a particularly instrumental role in the Lions' splendid from over the past month as coach Ivan van Rooyen has seemingly come close to settling on a first-choice combination.

The depth available to him should also be sufficient even without them.

Meanwhile, the Lions aren't preoccupied at all with the challenge posed by the log-leading Bulls on January 6, a fixture rescheduled after their Boxing Day meeting was postponed due to Covid-19 protocols.

Van Rooyen, rightly, believes his charges should first focus on their weekend trip to Nelspruit.

"I'm not worried about the Bulls at the moment," he told Netwerk24.

"We first need to get past the Pumas before we can start thinking about the next game."

The challenge posed to Jimmy Stonehouse's plucky charges is an interesting one.

While their subterranean placing on the log suggests that they are ripe for the taking, the Pumas have been far more competitive than their results suggest.

That would make the Lions wary of complacency, but they still need to target a full house of log points.

And that's not due to the Pumas' lowly status, rather because they need to gain breathing space on a congested log.

"We want to go and gain five log points to ensure our place in the semifinals," said Van Rooyen.

"The Pumas have played with great intensity throughout. They have a good group of players and some great coaches.

"If we're not out of the blocks quickly, they'll have their tails wagging and that will make life difficult for us."

Both teams will announce their match squads on Thursday.

Kick-off at the Mbombela Stadium is at 14:00.

- Compiled by Sport24 staff.

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