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Lions vs Blue Bulls – Gauteng Rugby Cup at Orlando Stadium

January 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

In a match to commemorate the first match of the Blue Bulls (then Northern Tranvaal) against the Lions (then Transvaal) in 1938 the Lions and Blue Bulls will play for the Gauteng Rugby Cup as part of the Gauteng Sports Challenge at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, 2 February at 15h00.

With a number of their senior players out with injury the Blue Bulls named a predominantly young but seriously talented side to take on Lions the trans-Jukskei clash. The team is loaded with players who played for the u/20 Boks in recent years, 13 to exact. Most of these players should get some game time during this year’s Super Rugby season but hardly any can be seen as first choice players.

Up front I think they will struggle in the scrums but the main interest must be the centre pairing of Serfontein and Mapoe, that is if Louis Fouche can find some way to make use of their skills.

The contest between Fouche and Lionel Cronje (the Bulls discard) will also be interesting to watch. Can Cronje replicate his performance against the Cheetahs an put in a smile-wiper of a performance against his former team-mates?

With all this talent facing them, and the fact that they are playing their Gauteng neighbours, I expect that the Lions will name the best available side.

Lions:

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert , 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).

Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Ruhan Nel

 

Blue Bulls:

15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Travis Ismaiel (2012), 13 Lionel Mapoe (2008), 12 Jan Serfontein (2012), 11 Sampie Mastriet (2009), 10 Louis Fouchè, 9 Jano Vermaak (v/c), 8 Arno Botha (2011), 7 Jean Cook (2011), 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse (2012), 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Juan Schoeman (2011)

Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi (2011), 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Wiaan Liebenberg (2012), 19 Cornell Hess (2009), 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Handrè Pollard (2012), 22 Ulrich Beyers (2011), 23 Jacques du Plessis (SA Schools – 2011)

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The incompetence of SARU

January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

SARU, fronted by Oregan Hoskins and Jurie Roux, takes the brunt of the criticism but in the end the decisions are made by the administrators of South Africa’s 14 provincial unions. and with their ham-handed and soft-cocked handling of the Kings entry into Super Rugby SARU and South Africa’s provincial rugby administrators have created a toxic environment where two franchises, the Lions and the Kings, are on a hiding to nothing.

SARU, and SA’s provincial administrators, by springing the Kings’ inclusion in Super Rugby without a clear process of how it will be done, allowed for the the issue to drag on for seven months in the search for meaningless alternative solutions, solutions that were never going to be considered or put to a vote.

And in the end the Kings were left with insufficient time to put together a competitive squad while the Lions were summarily dumped without a safety net, financial or otherwise. The result is that the Kings, with only one year to prove themselves, have to take on the might of Southern Hemisphere rugby with a squad ill-suited for the task while the Lions were put back to pre-2010, losing more that 20 players who would have formed the backbone of their team in 2013, and are now forced into another rebuilding process.

Financially both franchises are sucking the hind tit too. While both the Lions and the Kings will receive their share of the Super Rugby TV monies the Kings can only promise potential sponsors a one year guarantee while the Lions sponsors are left with less than they bargained for and deals had to be renegotiated.

Looking to the future, with no guarantee of participating in Super Rugby in 2014 the Kings still cannot offer players more than partial contracts while the Lions cannot really start renegotiating contracts with current players until after the Wooden Spoon Knockout game in August with the result that 2014, for whichever team wins through, the situation will hardly be any better.

The Kings and the Lions administrators are not exempt of blame either.

The Kings have been receiving their share of the Super Rugby TV Pot o’ Gold since 2009 already. They could have prepared themselves better by at least getting into and becoming competitive in the Currie Cup Premier Division. There is really no excuse for them to have languished in the First Division.

The Lions, on the other hand, were naive, especially during the 2012 Super Rugby season. The goal should have been not to end last of the SA teams, simple as that. I said it in a previous post, the Lions tactics during the 2012 Super Rugby, where they ignored points on the board through penalties in order to try and score tries, were counter productive. Winning, even winning ugly, should have been their focus.

In the end South Africa’s provincial rugby administrators, including those of the Kings and the Lions must shoulder the blame for the vitriolic them vs us atmosphere that is currently prevalent amongst SA’s rugby supporters. Supporters are currently sharply divided into pro-Kings and anti-Kings camps and, going by the comments on various online sites and forums, there are very few taking the middle ground. This just cannot be good for SA rugby.

With the Super Rugby season at hand the Kings will be hard-pressed to win a few games and not to end last of the SA teams while the Lions, through the Wooden Spoon Knockouts Preparation Programme they put together without any assistance from SARU, will hope to rebuild a team that can at least get them back into Super Rugby in 2014, which they will have to take on, once again, with a young team of rookies.

South Africa’s rugby administrator really didn’t think this one through or, if they did, they didn’t really care what the implications were.

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Elton Jantjies’s father dies

January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

My condolences to Elton Jantjies and his family on the loss of his father, Thomas Jantjies, who died over the weekend, reportedly after being stung by a bee.

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It only gets tougher

January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

With a combined Golden Lions cap count of only 231 between them (69 if you exclude the 173 caps of the four Lions stalwarts JC Janse van Rensburg, Derick Minnie, Alwyn Hollenbach and Michael Bondesio) the young and inexperienced Golden Lions team shook off a shaky first half to run in four tries during the second half to beat a Cheetahs Super Rugby “B” side 33-17.

In a game of two halves where the goal kickers of both sides struggled to find the target, the Lions struggled to gel in the first half while the Cheetahs reverted to their, now familiar, no-defence strategy in the second.

For the Lions, their scrums worked well and in the second half, once Michael Bondesio and Lionel Cronje came on, their backline started to strike. However, the Lions continue to struggle in the lineouts although it didn’t help that they played with rookie locks and hookers after losing the more experienced Martin Bezuidenhout on a short term loan to the Stormers.

The Cronje twins didn’t quite work out for the Lions in the first half and maybe it is time to give young Vian van der Watt, last year’s u/20 Bok scrumhalf, a go as backup scrummie. With the loss of Bezuidenhout at hooker one of the Lions juniors, either 2012 u/20 Bok hooker Mark Pretorius or 2012 SA Schools hooker Malcolm Marx, might get a chance to step up to the the senior squad.

For the Cheetahs, although this was a practice match, it must be worry that their defence is still not good enough for top level competition. Another area of concern must be the quality of their scrums although that should improve once Adriaan Strauss takes his place in the team.

And although this was a practice match for the Cheetahs it cannot sit well that their Super Rugby “B” side lost so comprehensively to what is essentially a Vodacom Cup level Lions team and the Cheetahs coaching staff has some serious work ahead before the Super Rugby competition starts in earnest on 22 February.

Lions coach, Johan Ackermann, will have a tough task this week to decide on a team to face the Bulls in the Gauteng Challenge Cup at Orlando Stadium on Saturday. The Lions “first team” comfortably dispatched the Russians in their first match to established their credentials but when the Lions “second team” ran in five tries to beat the Cheetahs on Saturday these players made sure that they remain in contention.

On Saturday the Lions take on the Bulls at Orlando Stadium in a Gauteng Rugby Cup match in what is the 75th anniversary of the first match played by the Northern Transvaal as an independent union when they played Transvaal in 1938. But more about that later in the week.

Lions best match 22?:

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert , 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).

Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Jacques Kotze, 19 Hugo Kloppers, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Ruhan Nel

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Canterbury announced as new Lions kit and apparel sponsor

January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Lions announced today that Canterbury will be the new kit and apparel sponsor, replacing Gilbert.

With Johan Ackermann wanting to ensure that everyone gets a chance to contest for positions in the match 22 the Lions also announced a much changes side to take on the Cheetahs on Saturday.

15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Guy Cronje, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Gavin Annandale, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).

Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Claude Tshibidi, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Andries Coetzee

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Varsity Cup – Can Wits be competitive?

January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Wits did some serious recruiting and development during 2012 and had relatively successful season in the two club leagues they played in finishing 3rd behind UJ and Roodepoort in the GLRU’s Pirates Grand Challenge winning 5 from 7 games and finishing 4th behind UJ, Pukke and Rustenburg Impala in the Predator League winning 9 from 13 with 2 draws against Pukke and Rustenburg Impala.

In pre-season matches in November their two teams beat TUT, last year’s Varsity Cup wooden spooners, 37-18 and 34-2.

Fortunately the Varsity Cup rules allow for a two year settling in period, which reduces the pressure as they will not be battling for their Varsity Cup life in their first season, but they obviously will want to be competitive and finish better than last. That will be a tough ask in a competition that features South Africa’s top universities.

Even traditional whipping boy, NMMU, has made massive progress over the past few years, finishing above UCT and TUT last year and beating the SWD Eagles in a pre-season work up while pushing the Southern Kings close last weekend.

Witsies will play a warm-up match against GLRU club rivals, Raiders, in a curtain raiser to the Golden Lions vs Cheetahs match.

During 2012 they recruited, amongst others, the Durban born Scotland u/20 JRWC scrumhalf, Matt Torrance, and the Tonga u/20 JRWC flyhalf, Latiume Fosita.

They have put together a talented squad of young players with 20 of the 30 players having played representative rugby at schoolboy or junior levels.

But, all said and done, Wits has a tough task ahead of them this year and while they may finish last they will hope to at least provide the big boys with competitive games and not to be whipping boys.

Wits team for Saturday’s game vs Raiders:

Number Player Age Representative Rugby
15 Bronson Lange 22
14 Jacques Erasmus 22 Lions u/19 Lions u/21 Lions VC
13 Kayde Fisher 21 KZN CW Sharks u/19 Sharks u/21
12 Jared Meyer 21 Lions CW Sharks u/19 Sharks u/21 Sharks VC
11 Riaan Arends 24 EP CW SA Schools Lions u/19 Lions u/21 SA Students
10 Latiume Fosita 20 Auckland Juniors Tonga u/20
9 Matt Torrance 20 KZN CW Scotland u/20
8 Jason Fraser 21 Lions u/21
7 Charlie Baggott 20
6 Pieter van Biljon 20 FS Grant Khomo
5 Devin Montgomery 23 Lions u/19 (Amateurs) Lions u/21 (Amateurs)
4 Rinus Bothma 23 Lions CW
3 Paka Zuma 22
2 Piers Cooper 23
1 Chad Erasmus 22
16 KK Kgame 21 Lions AW SA Schools Academy Lions u/19 Lions u/21
17 Hannes Ludick 23 Valke AW Valke u/21 Valke
18 Sam Peter 24
19 Carel Greeff 22 Leopards CW Sharks u/19 Lions u/21
20 Thato Mavundla</td

23 Griffons CW Lions u/19
21 Josh Durbach 24
22 Greg Blom 22
23 Mandla Dube 22 Lions AW Sharks u/19
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Super Rugby Expansion On The Cards?

January 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

It seems as if SARU’s ineptitude has paid off and that SANZAR will pull their nuts out of the fire.

The expansion of the Super Rugby competition from 2016 is on the cards with a good chance of a sixth SA franchise being included, if one considers the recent utterings in the media by SANZAR boss, Greg Peters, and a decision will apparently made later this year.

From Business Day on 18 January:

In line with this, Peters was aware South Africa would require six franchises in future to alleviate the problem of trying to squeeze six teams into five spots and to ensure Sanzar’s transformation objectives were met by accommodating the Southern and Eastern Cape franchise on a long-term basis.

“We don’t have a closed mind to another South African franchise,” he said.

“We know that it is imperative to South Africa to have six teams and we are giving that consideration.”
http://www.bdlive.co.za/sport/rugby/2013/01/18/super-rugbys-future-secure-says-sanzar-boss

But further expansion, into Asia and the Americas also seem to be on the cards. Quoted in Rugby Heaven this morning:

“We are considering whether or not we will include new territories in Super Rugby and one of the factors we’ll be weighing up is their competitiveness,” Peters told The Australian yesterday.

“Super Rugby in its present form is a pretty successful model … and we are not going to water it down. But we’d be derelict in our duty if we didn’t consider expanding into areas. The United States is a very big market and so is Japan and Asia generally. Ultimately it all comes down to what is in the best interests of the three SANZAR parties.”
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/rugby/super-rugby/8218105/Super-Rugby-mulls-global-expansion-options

So, will we see a Super 18 or even a Super 21 from 2016?

The biggest problem with any expansion will be the accommodation of more teams, and weaker ones at that, in a already congested rugby programme and the only way I can see it working is if they convert the Super Rugby competition into a two-tier competition.

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The Lions vs Cheetahs cat fight on Saturday

January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

The fact that the GLRU and the FSRU have buried the hatchet doesn’t mean that the match between these traditional enemies won’t be a tough one, practice match or not. During the last few years Super Rugby seasons the regular season matches between the Lions and the Cheetahs tended to go to the home side.

For the Cheetahs this is clearly a pre-season “trial” match. With Naka Drotske resting some key players and others still out injured he not only wants to find his best back up players in certain positions but also his best replacements for the injured players.

Up front the Cheetahs will be missing Boks Coenie Oosthuizen and Heinrich Brussow, along with Andries Ferreira, Martin Muller, Phillip van der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne while amongst the backs Bok Johan Goosen, new recruit Johan Sadie, utility Willie Roux and Sevens Bok Rayno Benjamin will also sit out.

Although the Cheetahs are missing a number of key players they have still announced a formidable side to take on Johan Ackermann’s Golden Lions, who themselves are still testing combinations and giving new recruits the opportunity to show what they have.

Ackers has made noises in the media that indicate some large scale chances from the team that beat Russia last week and with centre Alwyn Hollenbach and flank Jaco Kriel back from injury they also should get a run. The Lions team will only be announced on Friday.

The match should be a close affair but I think the Cheetahs scrums are going to struggle against a Lions pack that has continued where they left off last year, even with all the new faces, and that was impressive against a strong Russian forward pack.

At the back the Lions will have to contain the youngster, Raymond Rhule, who made a great debut to senior rugby last year and will be looking at gaining higher honours this year.

Looking at the two teams I get the feeling that my SuperBru projection of the Cheetahs winning by 18 was too pessimistic and that the game will be a much closer match, even if it is just a practice match.

Whatever the match result it will give some indication of the competitive level of the current Lions squad.

Cheetahs:

15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 JP Nel, 12 Robert Ebersohn (k), 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Tertius Daniller, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen

Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Waltie Vermeulen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Barry Geel, 22 Hansie Graaff

Golden Lions:

15 Marnitz Boshoff,  14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Guy Cronje, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Gavin Annandale, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Claude Tshibidi, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Andries Coetzee

 

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Attending the Lions Challenge matches

January 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

The official attendance figures for the first match of the Lions Challenge against Russia on Saturday was a paltry 4,495 people, definitely not the type of figures the GLRU would have hoped for. Granted, the attendance would have been a bit higher if not for the wet and cold weather conditions but it is doubtful whether it would have reached 10,000 and one can only hope that attendance will improve as the Lions’ Wooden Spoon Knockouts Preparation Programme progresses.

Considering the Ellis Park attendance figures of the past – 2012 Super Rugby: 23,313, 2012 Currie Cup: 19,520 – one probably can expect the Lions Challenge matches to average about 15,000+ per game, with games the South African franchises still to come and games against Samoa,  the French Barbarians and the stronger French clubs Montpellier and Grenoble to come later in the programme.

However, attendances will obviously be affected by the teams especially the SA franchises send to play the Lions. If they use the matches purely as practice matches to give their fringe players a run Ellis Park will be lucky to see 10,000 spectators per game.

People who expect the Lions to fill Ellis Park (60,000+), or to even get around 30k spectators to the games, for the Lions Challenge matches are living in a dream world. The fact is that the average South African rugby supporter do not attend rugby matches, he watches it on TV and past records prove that.

2012 Super Rugby:

During the 2012 Super Rugby competition only the Stormers and the Bulls averaged more than 30,000 spectators per home game.

Stormers: 41,919 (excluding the semi final)
Bulls: 33,562
Sharks: 24,271
Lions: 23,313
Cheetahs: 19,244

Currie Cup:

No team averaged home game attendances of near 30k during either the 2011 or the 2012 Currie Cup seasons with only the Sharks exceeding 20k in 2012.

2012:
Sharks: 21,458 (excluding semi final and final)
FS Cheetahs: 17,262
Golden Lions: 17,035 (excluding the semi final)
Western Province: 16,859
Blue Bulls: 14,199
Griquas: 9,312

2011:
Sharks: 23,025 (excluding semi final)
Golden Lions: 20274 (excluding the semi final and final)
Blue Bulls: 19,964
Western Province: 18,236
FS Cheetahs: 15,450
Griquas: 9,533

(Figures compiled from Wikipedia)

FYI:

Compare this to American football’s average home game attendances:

2012: University of Michigan in Ann Arbor: 112,252 (102.1%) City population: 760,000
2012: Dallas Cowboys: 88,531 (110.7%)

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Lions skinned the Bears

January 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

Za vashe zdorovie!

A small crowd of about 4500 hard-core Lions supporters braved the wet and cold of a Joburg night to see the Lions beat the Russian Bears by 51-13. Even though the rain probably kept some supporters away the attendance, even with the wet conditions, was disappointing.

While a win was always expected it was more important for the young and inexperienced Lions squad to settle down as a team and for the new combinations to gel.

Shaking off the wet weather and off-season rustiness the Lions had ample opportunity to express themselves and to run the ball while the 11 newscomers to team contributed handsomely to the scoreline with tries by Warwick Tecklenburg, Marnitz Boshoff, Ruan Nel and Lionel Cronje and Marnitz Boshoff converting most of their kicks.

If the Russians expected the “traditional South African rugby” as played by the Boks they were quickly disabused. While they focused on trying to play a forwards based game the Russians had no answer for the running rugby of the Lions, which the Lions rookies took to like ducks to water (sic). The Lions continued their scrummaging prowess of last year and dominated the set pieces.

The detractors are already making noises about the fact that it was “only the Russians” but it was important for the Lions to get their Wooden Spoon Knock Outs Preparation Programme (aka the Lions Challenge) off to a good start before tackling more serious competition. The Lions have a long season ahead to build and develop a team in preparation for the knock out matches at the end of July. One can focus on the negatives (small crowd, only Russia) or one can focus on the positives and look to the future – new & young players blooded, combinations that worked, etc.

While it was probably not quite PC for the Russians to present the Lions with a post-match bear skin gift we thank the Russians for coming to Joburg. Hopefully the matches they played here will help them in their Nations Cup campaign and help them to qualify for the next RWC.

Spasibo and Udachi!

The next few games (26-Jan-13 vs Cheetahs @ Ellis Park, 2-Feb-13 vs Bulls @ Orlando Stadium, 9-Feb-13 vs Kings @ Ellis Park) will probably have better crowds but I hope that the numbers for the other matches will grow. Unfortunately Ellis Park is always going to look empty, even with crowds of 15-20k, which are what I would hope for in future games.

Talking about future games, I see the Lions vs Bulls game on 2 February at Orlando Stadium is being promoted as the Gauteng Sports Challenge.

The programme starts off the a game between Pretoria Police and Pirates. No, it’s not the Bucs following Amakhosi into rugby, as I thought at first, but the Pirates Rugby Club.

This is followed by a dance off between the Felions and the Bulls Babes before the Golden Lions tackle the Bulls, but more about that at a later date.

Next up is the game against the Cheetahs on Saturday, 26 January, at Ellis Park.