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Mapoe an injury worry for Lions against Stormers

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Lions centre Lionel Mapoe is one of several injury concerns for the Lions ahead of their crunch h SA derby fixture against the Stormers in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The Lions’ hard-fought 24-9 victory over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday evening came at a cost, with a number of players succumbing to injury.

Chief among them is livewire midfielder Lionel Mapoe, who sustained an intercostal muscle contusion, which requires physio work and precludes him from taking any contact in training for at least two days.

It will be a race to get him fully recovered in time for his team’s next Super Rugby fixture at Ellis Park, against the high-flying Stormers. This game presents a mouthwatering clash between the two top SA sides and the Lions will want all hands on deck.

Adding to their woes, are injury concerns to the likes of flanker Jaco Kriel (neuropraxia (bruising) radial nerve in left arm), lock Andries Ferreira (bruised, tight hamstring), and prop Julian Redelinghuys (tight back muscles) – all key players whose wellbeing the Lions will be sweating.

The injury to Kriel, a lynchpin among the Lions loosies, also requires careful management and no contact for a few days, so he will be closely monitored along with Mapoe.

Meanwhile the Lions have revealed that pitch repairs are taking place at Emirates Airline Park as the ‘El Nino’ effect has proven to have an even more devastating effect in its wake in 2016 with weather systems being adversely impacted around the world and also in South Africa where maize output have dropped by 30%.

It has now also directly impacted on the current state of the pitch at Emirates Airline Park which has seen break-up during scrummaging, rucks and malls since the first home Vodacom Super Rugby game against the Cheetahs on 19 March.

El Nino causes a warming in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, and can lead to unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.

This pitch is a sand based growing medium to provide adequate drainage and good playing conditions during wet weather. It was constructed in 1996. The pitch is based on a two grass system where a warm season grass is used in the summer and cool season grass is used in winter to provide a deep root system all year round.

“The El Nino effect has restricted grass growth and poor root establishment at the park,” explains Mike Erasmus, stadium manager.

In the game against the Crusaders two percent of the playing surface was breaking up due to high temperatures in the week leading up to the game. As a result corrective steps had to be taken this week leading up to the Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Stormers on 16 April.

Johan van Vuuren, the pitch expert at Emirates Airline Park and one of the leaders on pitch management in South Africa, headed up the corrective action project.

“This had to be done to ensure the safety of the players and to restrict injuries. We had to take these precautionary measures and while it will take three weeks to recover, the pitch will be ready for all the forthcoming fixtures including the Test in June,” Erasmus concluded.

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