United Rugby Championship

Lions wary of losing talismanic Tshituka for extended period: 'His work ethic is special'

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Vincent Tshituka. (Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Vincent Tshituka. (Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
  • The Lions have made peace with the fact that they won't have talismanic flanker Vince Tshituka in harness for at least the next two months.
  • Recovering from a shoulder injury, the 23-year-old blindsider will be missed specifically because he's arguably the Lions' only specialist in the position.
  • Assistant coach Albert van den Berg says the team is keen to see who can stand up in Tshituka's absence, but he is missed.

The Lions won't have Vince Thshituka available for the foreseeable future in the United Rugby Championship (URC) as he continues his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury.

It's a hammer blow to coach Ivan van Rooyen and troops, who have begun to view the tough but gifted blindsider as one of the talismans in the pack.

"He's been with us daily, doing some work off the field. I don't think he'll be back in at least the next six weeks," assistant coach Albert van den Berg revealed on Tuesday.

"It's really a case of strengthening that shoulder of his. It's going to take some time. The last thing we want is to bring him back (too soon) and have another setback. It's now about focusing on rehab so that he can stay on the field."

READ | Former Bok skipper left in awe of Lukhanyo Am's class: 'He's wonderful to watch'

Tshituka's absence is particularly problematic when it comes to the balance of the Lions' loose trio.

He's proven influential with the experienced Jaco Kriel and Francke Horn alongside him, exacty because the three men form an old-school yet imposing combination - a hare, an enforcer and a robust link-man.

Without him, the Lions are left with a group of loose forwards who are all highly versatile in terms of being able to play at No 6 to No 8, but possibly lack Tshituka's grunt and energy.

"The void he leaves is one of work ethic," said Van den Berg.

"Vince is an unbelievably hard worker. He's everywhere on the field. He makes tackles, he's a fine ball-carrier and he attacks the rucks. He's one of those players who just always gives 100% along with something extra.

"I'm not saying the others don't do that, but Vince is special in that regard."

The former Bok lock, installed as forwards guru late last year before the commencement of the URC campaign after a successful stint with Griquas, also pointed out Tshituka's inherent suitability for the No 7 jersey.

"He's a great blindside flanker, a good fit for the position for us," he said.

"We don't quite have the depth for a like-for-like replacement for him as we have a mixture of guys who are generally switched more between No 6 and 8. So Vince is our one out-and-out No 7."

It remains to be seen whether that means Ruhan Straeuli will be granted an extended run as Tshituka's replacement though he hasn't been consistently convincing since graduating to the senior ranks.

Veteran Willem Alberts is another solid option though Reinhard Nothnagel's injury means the Lions probably need him to rather cover lock.

"Ruhan has come in and was relatively secure under the ball, even if he dropped one kick-off. He's working on that," said Van den Berg.

"But overall, it's an opportunity for us to see who can put up their hands and make a difference. We're definitely missing Vince."

The Lions continued their campaign by hosting the Bulls on Saturday.  

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