Rudolph Jacobs
Rugby Journalist
1 minute read
1 Apr 2014
6:09 am

Franco leaves big gap in Lions side

Rudolph Jacobs

The big question lingers – who will step into the big shoes left by Franco van der Merwe?

FILE PICTURE: Franco van der Merwe. Picture: Backpagepix

Lions coach Johan Ackermann decided to put a few of his players on ice last weekend for their next assignment in the Super Rugby competition.

Lock Martin Muller, right, was one of a few players withdrawn from Vodacom Cup duty and who could come back in the Super Rugby squad after the season-ending ankle injury to Van der Merwe.

Muller, the powerful former Griquas lock who also played Super Rugby for the Cheetahs, has been plagued by knee injuries since joining the Lions more than a year ago.

Muller, replaced by Hugo Kloppers in the Vodacom team, and somebody like Rudi Matthee, the veteran Pumas lock who was injured in a Lions pre-season game and MB Lusaseni, will compete for the big gap Van der Merwe has left.

After enjoying a bye last week after recording four wins in six starts, the Lions resumed training yesterday and next face the Crusaders at Ellis Park this weekend.

Lions players who recently returned from injury – fullback Andries “Boeboes” Coetzee, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and centre Alwyn Hollenbach – were also withdrawn by Ackermann from the Golden Lions’ Vodacom Cup team who faced the Griffons.

Knee injuries picked up by centre Deon van Rensburg and fullback Coenie van Wyk in the previous game against the Blues at Ellis Park should, however, not keep them out of the Crusaders encounter.

The men from Christchurch limped their way on to South African soil after going down 29-26 to the Hurricanes last weekend, their third loss in five starts.

The Crusaders’ All Black lock Luke Romano and No 8, captain Kieran Read, are both on the injured list, with centre Ryan Crotty taking over the leadership against the Hurricanes.