Ross Cronjé. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SYDNEY SESHIBEDI
Ross Cronjé. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SYDNEY SESHIBEDI

Ross Cronjé’s time on the sidelines has almost made him fade from memory.

The soft-spoken scrumhalf was again robotically effective in setting the Lions’ tempo and pulse in 2018’s Super Rugby but it’s been five months since a shoulder operation yanked him from the field. 

In that time the game seemed to have passed him by. The 29-year-old had established himself as a regular feature in the Springbok team in 2017‚ but in 2018 the Boks went for Faf de Klerk’s cutting edge, while Cronjé was exposed to the scalpel.

Soon‚ however‚ he can set about the task of retracing his steps when he returns from injury.

“Hopefully in a week or two‚” Cronjé said about his return.

“I’m not going to rush back. I’m gonna make sure I’m 100% ready. I’ve run quite a bit. Now I’m taking more contact and doing game-related drills and fitness.

“I had a  Latarjet — a shoulder injury. It happened about five months ago. I had to go for an operation. It is usually a six-month injury. It has been five months but my rehab and strength is good.”

He‚ and a few other Lions’ players who had gone under the knife‚ have been earmarked to return for the team’s first Super Rugby home match against the Bulls on the March 2.

“Obviously I’m missing playing with the boys‚” he said.

“It is a little frustrating but luckily here at the Lions we have great depth‚ especially at scrumhalf. It is never nice missing any game,” said Cronje.

“It doesn’t matter whether it is Bloemfontein‚ which isn’t my favourite place. Having an injury like this makes you quite hungry again.”

Cronjé was philosophical about the injury.

“This has been my first proper injury in 10 years‚” he said.

“The break was nice‚ I feel a human being again. I feel like I’m ready to go.

“It was quite nice to spend time with our young child‚ she’s seven months old. That was one of the positives. I always try and find a positive when there’s a negative.”

He also had time to tend to his startup.

“I’ve got a wedding venue that I started up with my brother and sister and a couple of other things I’ve started up outside rugby.”

His is upbeat about the Lions’ prospects in 2019.

Some may suggest that, having lost in three finals, the Lions’ time is up at the competition’s cutting edge but Cronjé believes they are endowed with momentum and a how-to-win spirit.

“You can definitely take that kind of winning culture with you‚” he said.

“Winning becomes a habit but at the same time success is written in ice. You’ve got to focus on new challenges.

“Everyone is getting bigger‚ fitter‚ stronger and better in terms of skills. If you don’t rock up‚ no matter who you play in Super Rugby‚ you are not gonna win that game.”

The Lions‚ meanwhile‚ have bolstered their midfield reserves with the acquisition of Franco Naude, on loan from the Bulls.

The junior Springbok from 2016 has one Super Rugby cap to his name.