United Rugby Championship

Lions and Bulls have pesky lock stock problems as derby day looms at Ellis Park

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Emmanuel Tshituka. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
Emmanuel Tshituka. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
  • With a gruelling URC campaign still ahead, both the Lions and Bulls have lock headaches going into Saturday's Jukskei derby. 
  • The Lions, who host the match, are hard hit through the latest injury to line-out organiser Pieter Jansen van Vuren and actually don't have any specialist No 5 locks available currently.
  • Meanwhile, the Bulls still can't get more service out of marquee signing Jacques du Plessis - expected to be their first-choice No 4 lock - as he's going for surgery on a pesky Achilles problem.

Whether it affects them materially in Saturday's first of two Jukskei derbies in the Rugby Championship is a question that doesn't have an answer yet, but both the Lions and Bulls are struggling with their lock stocks going into the match.

It's Ivan van Rooyen's charges from Ellis Park that arguably have larger voids to fill following the loss of Pieter Jansen van Vuren in a freakish training accident.

The 30-year-old former Pumas captain, who signed permanently for the Lions earlier this month, is out for " four to five months" with a fractured arm.

"It was rather unfortunate," said a philosophical Van Rooyen on Friday.

"He was trying to help stop a maul and his arm got caught in an awkward position." 

Jansen van Vuren - his leadership qualities aside - has also been his team's main line-out caller and, along with former Baby Bok Reinhard Nothnagel also still being sidelined, means that the Lions don't have any of their organisers in harness for the foreseeable future.

"It's obviously a big loss for us, especially for our line-outs," said Van Rooyen.

"Bascially, we now have to play with five loose forwards or two forward locks and three loosies. But that brings different advantages in different areas." 

For this weekend, the Lions have called on the vast experience of veteran Willem Alberts to don the No 5 jersey though he's not renowned as a technician.

"Ruben (Schoeman) has called for us previously, but this is the situation we find ourselves in," said Van Rooyen.

"It's forcing us to be a bit more creative in the line-out. That's just where we are currently. We'll just have to adapt." 

However, in terms of improvising a bit more, the Lions might find their trump card in Emmanuel Tshituka, who fills elder brother Vince's boots at No 7.

The younger sibling was considered the best lock in 2020's Provincial Under-21 Championship.

"Yeah, we can either say we're playing with two four locks or five flankers. In terms of mobility and physicality, Emmanuel gives us something different." 

60km further up north, the Bulls don't necessarily have immediate concerns, but still won't be able to grant Jacques du Plessis a proper, extended opportunity to gain form.

The 28-year-old second rower, another one of Jake White's marquee signings last year, was specifically signed with the expectation of becoming the top dog in the No 4 jersey.

Instead, the Bulls' director of rugby - who coached him at Montpellier in France - has had to use him sparingly due to various niggles and has now decided to address those problems head-on.

"Jacques is going for an operation on his Achilles tendon," said White.

"It's one of those injuries that just flare up every weekend. We've decided the best solution is to get it fixed up. We can't go on with him playing one week and then having him take off for two weeks. 

"We've got to get to the point where we work towards what we want to be in the next two years, which is being a great side. Jacques has been identified as one of the key men who's going to add value, so we need him ready. We're hoping he comes through nicely." 

Cyle Brink, the Bulls' latest acquisition, also won't be able to add immediate depth at loose forward because of a delicate hamstring injury, where one of the nerves are inflamed.

Kick-off at Ellis Park is at 15:00.



15 EW Viljoen, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Rabz Maxwane, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Emmanuel Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Willem Alberts, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Stihole

Substitutes: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Sibusiso Sangweni, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel


15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 David Kriel 


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