Two key absences are already being felt by the Lions and it’s affecting one of their biggest weapons.
Coach Johan Ackermann highlighted his troops’ struggles at the scrum during Saturday’s Super Rugby warm-up match against the Stormers at Newlands.
The Capetonians won a free-scoring contest by 57-40.
“We’ll have to take a good look at our scrums,” said Ackermann.
“It’s an area that bugged me during the game. I thought it was disappointing that we couldn’t get it right throughout. We started poorly and also struggled at the end. It was only in the middle period of the game that we did reasonably in that facet of the game.”
It’s probably not surprising that the Lions are experiencing some difficulty.
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They are without Springbok tighthead Julian Redelinghuys, whose return to competitive rugby is in doubt due to a serious neck injury, while loosehead Dylan Smith is only expected to be ready again next month.
The 22-year-old prop made a massive impression in last year’s Super Rugby campaign.
Attacking rugby remains the Lions’ trademark but they’ll need to sort out their scrum issues speedily.
The stability and even dominance of the Johannesburg side’s scrum is one of the main reasons for their success.
In fact, it’s the foundation of their game-plan.
Naturally, Ackermann was concerned about his charges’ poor defence during the game but believes it was also down to the nature of the game.
“The fact is, a lot of the players haven’t played competitively for a few months,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with our system. It’s about intensity. You’ll find that most of the time during a pre-season game you concede points because you’re just a bit off the pace. It’s something we can work on and rectify before the start of the campaign.”
* The Stormers have bolstered their squad with the recruitment of former Bulls and Springbok winger Bjorn Basson.
The 30-year-old has been deemed surplus to requirements in Pretoria, where numerous exciting young backs have emerged.
But with stock at Newlands already low following injuries to centre Juan de Jongh and wing Leolin Zas, Basson’s presence will be welcomed.
In the past few years, he’s shown his versatility by being adept at fullback too.
“His record speaks for itself. Bjorn is a player of proven quality,” said Gert Smal, director of rugby.
“We have a player who is comfortable on the wing or fullback and is one of the best under the high ball.”