Lions 2013 – A Long & Winding Road Ahead
January 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
Looking at the two years ahead I struggle to see how the Lions will not only get back into Super Rugby but also stay in Super Rugby.
The Golden Lions match squad selected for Saturday’s game against Russia highlights the tough task the Lions have ahead of them to get back into Super Rugby. And if they do get back it will be even tougher to be competitive in 2014.
Even a minimal number of injuries to senior players have left the Lions with a young and inexperienced squad, a squad which can by no means be seen as a potential Super Rugby squad for 2014. Injuries to CJ van der Linde, Deon van Rensburg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Dylan Des Fountain, Ruan Combrinck and Jaco Kriel resulted in a team with an average age of only 23 and with 11 Lions debutants, a young and inexperienced side on whose shoulders rest the task of getting the franchise back into Super Rugby. To be frank, the team announced for the Russia game is probably no better than a Lions Vodacom Cup team of past years.
Further injuries during the season, which are inevitable, will leave the team with even less experience by the time the have to play in the Wooden Spoon knock outs at the end of July. By July the Lions side could very well consist of mainly u/19 and u/21 players and even the return of their loan players may not be enough to get them through the knock outs and into Super Rugby 2014.
And then the real trouble starts.
At the end of 2013 a number of Lions players’ contracts come to an end and even if the Lions get back into Super Rugby they will probably lose some of these players:
Elton Jantjies, Flyhalf, 2013
Jaco Taute, Fullback, 2013
Lionel Mapoe, Wing/centre, 2013 (?)
Franco van der Merwe, Lock, 2013 (?)
Robert du Bruyn, Centre, 2013
JR Esterhuizen, wing, 2013
Deon Helberg, wing, 2013
Ruan Combrinck, Wing/fulback – 2013
JC Janse van Rensburg, prop – 2013
CJ van der Linde, prop – 2013
Hendrik Roodt, lock – 2013
Jaco Kriel, flank – 2013
Stephan Greeff, lock – 2013
Warren Whiteley, eighthman – 2013
Michael Bondesio, scrumhalf – 2013
Ross Cronje, scrumhalf – 2013
Whestley Moolman, scrumhalf – 2013
Guy Cronje, flyhalf – 2013
Alwyn Hollenbach, centre – 2013
Dylan Des Fountain, centre – 2013
Bradley Moolman, centre – 2013
Deon van Rensburg, centre/wing – 2013
(as per last known info)
During 2013 the Lions not only have to keep their players match fit (the primary reason for the Lions Challenge schedule) but will have to develop and grow these youngsters into a team capable of taking on and beating South Africa’s Super Rugby sides.
While the current status is that the Lions will play the last placed SA side (generally presumed to be the Kings) SARU may well decide to give the Kings more time and for the Lions to play the last SA side, excluding the Kings, but even the Kings will not be walk in the park with the young and inexperienced side the Lions will probably have to field in July.
However, it will not be enough for the Lions just to get back into Super Rugby, they need to be more competitive in Super Rugby 2014 than they have been in the last 10 years. And to do that they will have to keep their best players and get the players to extend their contracts, a tough ask.
But in addition to this they will have to recruit some experienced talent for 2014 and, I fear, this is a pipe dream. We all saw how they struggled to keep and recruit top players when they were in Super Rugby.
All credit to the GLRU and the Lions to fight back but SARU’s decision to sacrifice the Lions for the Kings makes it virtually impossible for the Lions to recover.