Fred Zeilinga joins Lions squad for final game of tour as opening half

Johannesburg – Fred Zeilinga joined the Emirates Lions squad for the final match of their United Rugby Championship tour in Europe this weekend.

The 28-year-old opening half will serve as a cover and could even start this weekend against Ulster if the need for a pivot calls for it, after Jordan Hendrikse’s long-term injury against the Scarlets two Saturday and the more recent injury of Eddie Fouché. last week created a 10-a-side crisis for the Joburg-based team.

It is also a stroke of luck for Ivan van Rooyen and Co.

Until last week, no South Africans were allowed to enter the UK without a required and costly 10-day quarantine period due to that country’s redlist due to Covid-19. On Monday, SA was officially removed from that list, opening travel between the two countries and easing restrictions when entering the UK and Northern Ireland.

It is for this reason that Zeilinga will be able to join his teammates in Belfast, Northern Ireland this week without any repercussions. It will also be relatively cool, as it is a much shorter travel period, while there is limited time zone travel to the UK than you would expect when playing previously in Super Rugby.

Travel fatigue and jet lag should therefore not be a concern.

Zeilinga hasn’t done any nonsense playing for the Lions, however, and it will be interesting to see if Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen stays with EW Viljoen in the opening post this weekend, or immediately utilizes the services of the former Cheetahs player. . Viljoen was pretty solid in the position against Glasgow last Saturday, if not spectacular, and he also managed to register crucial penalties that kept the Lions on the lookout for victory.

His preferred position is full back, and in the Scarlets game, Viljoen was one of the most notable performers of that loss, playing from behind with confidence and intention.

Elsewhere, the Lions have also lost the services of loaner Pieter Jansen van Vuren, who will return to the country, after injuring his MCL in the loss to Glasgow. No deadline for his reinstatement was indicated by the union in the press release.

Van Vuren teamed up with second-row Ruben Schoeman in all three matches on the tour, with Reinhard Nothnagel acting off the bench in those matches. Van Rooyen can call on unused Wilhelm van der Sluys and Emmanuel Tshituka when he selects Matchday 23 to face the Ulstermen on Thursday.

“It’s always unfortunate to lose players to injury, but these are the realities of rugby,” Van Rooyen said in a union statement on Monday. “We welcome Fred to the band and wish Pieter, Jordan and Eddie a speedy recovery.”

The game against the Irish club, currently at the top of the table alongside Munster with 15 points, will start at 8:35 p.m. on Friday.


IOL Sport

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