The Lions, still struggling to come to terms with the heartbreak of their 24-all draw against the Reds at the weekend, may have to undertake a murderous five-week tour of Australasia without their inspirational captain Ernst Joubert.
Jan de Koning reports for Rugby 365 that Lions coach Eugene Eloff confirmed on Monday that Joubert is doubtful for the trip, which gets underway when they tackle the Highlanders in Dunedin on April 4. They follow this with games against the Crusaders, Waratahs, Brumbies and Hurricanes on successive weekends.
Eloff revealed that Joubert is struggling with shoulder and elbow injuries and have been for scans.
“We will know on Tuesday if he can tour,” Eloff told rugby365.com.
Joubert has been a pillar in a Lions team that lacks maturity at Super 14 level, despite having advanced to the Currie Cup Final last year.
Joubert also missed the first few weeks of action after suffering a back injury in a pre-season game and losing him would be huge blow to the Lions.
Eloff, who struggled to hide his disappointment at the draw against the Reds, said his team will tackle the tour in a “positive frame of mind”.
After starting their campaign with a win against the Cheetahs, the encounter with the Reds at the weekend presented them with their best opportunity of a win since.
They were leading 24-17 going into the final minute – before veteran Wallaby fullback Chris Latham burst through a disorganised Lions defensive line to score a try, which Clinton Schifcofske converted to steal a draw.
“Yes, obviously it hurst to lose in the final minute like that, but will remain positive and work hard. I feel we have turned the corner,” he said of his team’s results the last three weeks – which saw them lose by 14 points (17-31) to the Bulls, then by just eight points (8-16) to the Sharks and drew with the Reds at the weekend.
“We will look to build on what we have done in the last three weeks, because I feel we have played some good rugby at time. The results haven’t always gone our way, but there is an upward curve,” Eloff added.
“We are very happy with where we are at,” the Lions coach added.
Eloff said that the main reason why his team failed to shut out the Reds was a lack of experience and maturity.
“The difference between the two teams was Chris Latham,” he said of the veteran Wallaby fullback.
“He directed them from the back and it worked for them. He knew where to attack and in this game it is about experience, which showed again at the weekend,” Eloff added.
The Lions have been given time off in the early part of the week, before they regather on Wednesday. There will be a golf day on Thursday and the team flies out to New Zealand on Friday to start preparations for the five-match venture in Australasia.Tweet