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The challenge of the Lions Challenge

May 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

EmbarrassedThe inaptly named Lions Challenge has become a real challenge for the Golden Lions as the time of reckoning draws near. With less than three months to the Wooden Spoon Knock Outs the Lions Challenge is unraveling leaving the Lions with the task of arranging alternative matches on short notice.

Since French club Agen cancelled their trip down south due to budgetary reasons the French Barbarians have also cancelled their game and it is rumoured that the games against Montpellier and Grenoble are also endangered leaving the Lions with matches against Samoa, in South Africa for the winter tests, the Sharks and the Stormers.

The French Barbarians apparently cancelled as they had hoped for three matches in South Africa but only the Lions match could be arranged while Grenoble claims “a lack of guarantee from the province of Golden Lions for the organization”, according to the French rugby web site Rugby Rama.

The GLRU, however, announced this week that the games against Montpellier and Grenoble are still on the cards but will be confirmed later. The game against Montpellier will be depend on whether they make the Top 14 play-offs. The French Barbarians match will be replaced by an SA Barbarians side that will feature some of South Africa’s overseas based players.

This leaves the Lions with only four certain matches in June and none in July before the knock outs on 27 July and 3 August.

1-Jun-13 vs Samoa @ Ellis Park
8-Jun-13 vs SA Barbarians @ Ellis Park
15-Jun-13 vs Stormers @ Ellis Park
21-Jun-13 vs Sharks @ Ellis Park

To add to the problems of arranging alternative matches for July is the fact that the Currie Cup First Division competition starts on 28 June already with the result that none of the “B” division unions can play the Lions.

The junior Currie Cup schedules haven’t been released yet but given that the U/19 and U/21 competitions started mid-July last year, games against the Vodacom Cup teams of the Blue Bulls, the Sharks, Griquas and the Free State might not be viable as these teams normally contain a number of their juniors with the senior players in Super Rugby.

Meanwhile Samoa has announced their touring squad, which is made up of mainly overseas based players and is probably the strongest squad they have assembled outside of the World Cups. The game against the Lions start off their tour and will probably be used by them to try and gel their team before their first test against Scotland.

Is it all falling apart as some in the media suggest?

I don’t think so. The purpose of the Lions Challenge was always to prepare players and to keep players match fit rather than to necessarily give them Super Rugby level competition, impossible as all the Super Rugby teams are playing … wait for it! … Super Rugby and so far the players’ preparation and match fitness seem to be on track. With at least three games is July the only problem period in in July when, if the French teams pull out, the Lions will have no matches and are in danger of going into the play offs rusty, especially if one consider that their loan players only return two weeks before the play offs.

This is where the Lions need to look for at least two certain matches, one after the loan players have returned. If they can do that the Lions’ Wooden Spoon Knockouts Preparation Programme will achieve what was set out to achieve, albeit not quite in the same way as originally scheduled.

17 responses to The challenge of the Lions Challenge

  1. powa said on May 7, 2013

    when the Lions play the Kings, who will the loan players like Taute, Jantjies etc play for? When will they be released by Sharks, Stormers etc?

    • Jantjies is not on a loan contract, he is with the Stormers for the season. I’m not sure if he will be released if the Stormers don’t make the play-offs.

      Taute is out for the year but technically he must be released, as well as the other loan players, two weeks before the knockouts,

  2. This Vodacom Cup thing might get interesting. The Kings could land a significant psychological blow if they knock over the Lions.

    Although I still would like WP to win it again :)

    The way the Sharks are going I think the Lions will be lucky to play against the Vodacom side, and the Stormers will probably do the same.

    • The Kings must first beat the Pumas, then a Kings Lions final will be in PE, assuming of course the Lions beat WP. Looking at the Kings side that played last week they actually have quite a good journeyman side with all their Super Rugby non-playing players in the side, not quite in the position of WP, who is playing a lot of youngsters.

      Maybe not the greatest team but as the Kings showed against the Blue Bulls, you cannot go to sleep on them.

      • I would prefer a Pumas-Lions final. Although if we do make it into the final and we play the queens, we could get a huge phsycological advantage if we beat them in their back yard. It’ll also prepare our guys for whats to come in the promotion/rel games.
        But on the other hand Darren, if the kings beat us in the final they’ll have all the advantage..

        • I actually think its a no winner (psychologically speaking) for the Lions if they do play the Kings in the Vodacom final.

          If the Kings take them, they know that the Kings B-team managed to beat them. If its a close affair (like most finals) They’ll know the King’s B-team almost beat them. If they destroy them It means nothing, because there is a huge difference between their VC and S15 sides.

          At least the Lions players are getting game time, instead of just running drills.

  3. Why did you copy and paste the comment you made on Brenden Nel’s article ‘Lions challenge collapsing’ on the Supersport site and add it at the end of this post?

    http://www.supersport.com/rugby/sa-rugby/news/130506/Lions_challenge_collapsing

    • I thought it expanded my post, especially in the light of a number of media articles that focused on the “collapse”. Don’t you think so?

      • For sure, it did and you were spot on.

        I think the Lions will relish the knockout or ‘matchplay’ games as you so aptly put it.

        Would be ironic if the Lions meet the EP Kings in the final hopefully at Ellis Park?

        • If they meet the final will be in PE, the South Section team gets the final this year, and that will be even more of a test, playing in the house of the “enemy”. :)

  4. Cuzin said on May 6, 2013

    Hey Baylion. What about games against the U20 Bokke. That way the young bokkies get match time before the junior world cup.

  5. June seems to be settled with a few good games. But they definitely have to get at least 2 games for July. They dont want to play every single wknd in July, they need to be fresh for the playoff games, but then again not be rusty. I’m sure they can organise someone somewhere?? Even if they use a Lions B-team just to get some match practise?

    • You’re right. Our loan players will be back two weeks before the play-offs and we need at least one game with them before facing the Kings. Just don’t know against whom

  6. Ohoo the Kings could well beat the Lions come promo/relegation match later this year…. They will be better prepared than the Lions and have showed hunger so far this season. Not going to be so easy for the Lions to get back in Super Rugby as what many believed before!

    • It’s going to be tough and not games that the Lions would want to face with a rusty team considering that the loan players only return two weeks before. Still, there enough talent in the Lions side to beat the Kings, for what that’s worth.

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