Star Cheetahs wing William Small-Smith has temporarily moved up to Johannesburg – but not to play rugby, and he won’t be available for the Lions.
Small-Smith has taken a three-month break from rugby after suffering a series of knocks to the head and suffering concussions, but he is still contracted to the Cheetahs until October 2022.
The Cheetahs player has briefly made Johannesburg his home because he is receiving treatment for his head injuries from one of the leading sport scientists in this field, Jon Patricios.
After three months a decision will be taken whether Small-Smith will be able to continue with his career or if he will be forced to retire.
Small-Smith said in an interview on OFM that he was desperate to play for the Cheetahs again, but he decided to consult with Patricios because he was one of the leading experts in this field.
The Lions, in the meantime, have welcomed back three of their regulars to training in loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani, scrumhalf Dillon Smit and fullback EW Viljoen after they missed the entire Currie Cup competition due to injury.
Lions coach Cash van Rooyen has identified a squad of 45 players ahead of the Preparation Series opener against the Pumas at Ellis Park on Friday.
Because the Lions are expected to play in the region of 40 matches this year, Van Rooyen is expected to give several of his squad members exposure in order to improve their depth ahead of the Rainbow Cup in April.
Somebody like young star James-Henry Mollentze could occasionally be wearing the flyhalf jersey in order to manage captain Elton Jantjies’ workload.
Mollentze could, however, also be used at centre while fullback Tiaan Swanepoel, who has emerged as a star, could also be used at flyhalf.
Van Rooyen, who is expected to name his side either on Tuesday or Wednesday, is also looking for a capable replacement for lock Marvin Orie, who has joined forces with Western Province.
It is Orie’s ability to drive the Lions lineout which will be particularly hard to replace, but young talent such as former Sharks junior star Lunga Ncube, Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel and Wilhelm van der Sluys will help solve the problem.
It is also possible that Bok Ruan Dreyer could solely be used as loosehead prop where he will compete with Sti Sithole and Dylan Smith for a place in the side.
Fullbacks: Ew Viljoen, Tiaan Swanepoel, Divan Rossouw
Wings: Stean Pienaar, Jamba Ulengo, Courtnall Skosan, Rabz Maxwane
Centres: Burger Odendaal, Dan Kriel, Manuel Rass, James-Henry Mollentze, WandIsile Simelane
Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies, Luke Rossouw, Gianni Lombard
Scrumhalves: Ross Cronje, Dillon Smit, Morne van Den Berg, André Warner
Loose forwards: Marnus Schoeman, Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, Hacjivah Dayimani, Francke Horn, Roelof Smit, Mark Snyman, MJ Pelser, Jaco Kriel
Locks: Willem Alberts, Reinhard Nothnagel, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Ruben Schoeman, Lunga Ncube
Props: Carlu Sadie, Wiehahn Herbst, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Ruan Dreyer, Sti Sithole, Dylan Smith, Nathan Mcbeth, Jannie Du Plessis
Hookers: Jaco Visagie, Jan Henning Campher, Dameon Venter, Pj Botha.