Coach confident Cronje will play

Lionel Cronje

Head coach Deon Davids is confident his captain and playmaker Lionel Cronje will be fit to lead the Southern Kings into battle when they face the Sharks in what promises to be an explosive Super Rugby clash on Saturday.

Cronje has been a key player in the Kings’ Super Rugby wins over the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels and there were fears that he would not be ready for Saturday’s clash against the Sharks.

The pivot left the field with a concussion in the Kings’ last game against the Rebels, and underwent a return to play protocol which started last week when the Kings had a bye.

“Lionel is just following the normal concussion protocol, Davids said. “His last day is Thursday. “He will have to do some contact on bags and stuff and then we will know whether he will play.

“We are confident he will be ready. He is not taking contact.

Of the training, he said: “There was nice energy. The guys looked refreshed and are excited about the weekend.”

Kings team doctor Konrad von Hagen is also confident that Cronje will get the green light to play.

“While Lionel is undergoing the return-to-play protocol, he has shown good signs that he could be available for selection on Thursday,” he said.

Cronje was full of energy in training yesterday and his experience will be vital in what is shaping up to be the Kings’ biggest game of the season.

The cool-headed Cronje will have a key role to play against a Sharks side that is expected to be led by Springbok Patrick Lambie.

So far, the prolific points machine has racked up 76 points for the Kings and he will be out to improve on that tally against the Sharks.

This is the sort of form that will be vital if the Kings are to stretch their winning streak to three matches and make history by beating South African opposition for the first time in Super Rugby.

Davids said there were two ways of looking at a team coming back from a bye weekend.

“Having a break like that is good from a recovery perspective, but sometimes not good for your momentum.

“We had to have some words this morning just to get everyone going.”

Loose forward CJ Velleman, who has been out of action with a knee injury for a lengthy period, returned to full training yesterday.

“CJ joined our full contact sessions this week. We will continue to look at his progress until Thursday.

“We might get him involved with the SuperSport Rugby Challenge squad to get 20 or 30 minutes of game time this weekend,” Davids said.

“Depending on how he gets through that, we will revisit his position. “We will definitely not rush CJ back. “We want to allow him to get game fit and to get his confidence back.

“We will listen to the advice of the medical staff and make our decisions accordingly.”

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