When Lions team doctor Rob Collins was asked on Tuesday how concerned he is about the team’s latest list of walking wounded, his response was rather surprising.
“The number of guys out now compared to most seasons is about the same.”
In other words, there’s no need for panic as the men from Ellis Park prepare to leave for Singapore on Wednesday to face the Sunwolves this weekend.
“We’ve almost just cleared our injury list and now we have a few more injuries. It is a normal amount of injuries. It is not a huge concern for me,” said Collins.
Yet, in the short term, to what extent will these injuries affect South Africa’s three-time finalists?
KWAGGA SMITH (Out for six weeks)
The former Blitzboks star has had an outstanding campaign to date, spearheading a loose trio lacking in size and oozing with skill.
His versatility is becoming the stuff of legend and his ability to find space has ignited numerous attacking moves in 2019.
“He’s a quick healer. It might be quicker than that,” said Collins.
Likely replacement: 22-year-old James Venter, another nippy flanker who might not quite possess Smith’s skill, but is hard-working and a very keen tackler.
The hole he leaves: Creativity and leadership might nosedive, but physicality won’t be affected.
DYLAN SMITH (Out for eight to 12 weeks)
He’s been the mainstay of the Lions’ scrum and really stepped up with several more experienced props moving on.
Except for his scrumming, Smith has been prominent in broken play.
“His injury involves bone that has to heal on the outside. The soft piece of the cheek is broken,” said Collins.
Likely replacement: Veteran Jacobie Adriaanse, whose been around the block, but 20-year-old Nathan McBeth might also come into the reckoning.
The hole he leaves: Probably the biggest one of all the injured players given Adriaanse’s fitness concerns and McBeth’s inexperience.
VINCE TSHITUKA (Out for four weeks)
The jury’s still out on his ability to win the collisions as a blindsider, but he’s certainly made his mark.
Tshituka has shown a willingness to be a link in attack and certainly doesn’t shy away from defence, which he says he wants to become known for.
Likely replacement: Hacjivah Dayimani is thought to be a like-for-like though he doesn’t seem to be as physical-inclined, while Robert Kruger has been around the block.
The hole he leaves: Rising form and enthusiasm is never something a team wants to miss out on. Dayimani will arguably add more of a X-factor.
Others out of contention: Andries Coetzee (back next week), Dillon Smit (hamstring, four weeks), Warren Whiteley (pectoralis, mid-April), Cyle Brink (knee, 4 April), Johannes Jonker (4 April).