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by Baylion

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.

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by Baylion

Lions Challenge – Hunting Bears

January 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

Lions Challenge jersey

Lions Challenge jersey – not sure what the designer tried to achieve

The Russian Bears is an unknown entity in our neck of the woods, which makes it difficult to evaluate how competitive they will be in the Lions’ first match of the season. Not only has the Russians never played in South Africa or against South African opposition (as far as I know), their individual players are also unknown to the South African audiences.

Ranked #20 by the IRB the Russian Bears is definitely a third tier rugby nation, on par with natons like Portugal, Spain, Uruguay and the Ukraine while below nations like Canada, USA and Georgia. Results during 2011/12 bear this out. During the 2011 RWC they lost to Australia (22-68), Ireland (12-62), Italy (17-53) and USA (6-13). During 2012 they beat Portugal (33-32), Ukraine (38-19, Spain (41-37 and Uruguay (19-13) while losing to Romania (0-25), Georgia (0-46), Emerging Italy (17-33), Argentina A (9-33), USA (26-40) and Canada (3-35).

If one consider that the Kings beat Portugal, Georgia and Romania during the 2011 Nations Cup the Golden Lions should be considered favourites for the match even though they have lost a number of their first choice players after the 2012 season.

Injuries forced the Russians to leave some of their key players at home (Alexander Shakirov, Yevgeny Matveyev, Vladimir Botvinnik, Sergei Popov, Vladimir Boltenkov, Vladimir Ostroushko, Denis Antonov and Vladislav Korshunov) while they recalled a number of players who haven’t played for them in quite a while: Jaroslav River (2006), Sergey Novoselov and Maxim Kiselev (2007) and Sergei Yanyushkin (2009). They will also feature some rookies including Sergey Chernyshev (hooker) and Ruslan Shirinov (lock).

The Russians play their first match on Monday night against the University of Johannesburg and this match will give us an indication of their relative strength.

Apart from the Super Rugby opponents the Lions Challenge schedule has been set up so that the Lions face more competitive opponents later in the season to prepare them for the Wooden Spoon play-offs at the end of July. For the Lions the match against the Russian Bears provides an opportunity to ease into the 2013 season with a new team and new combinations before tackling more demanding opposition.

The Lions will start the season with some senior players missing – CJ van der Linde (injured), Deon van Rensburg (injured) and Warren Whiteley (Blitsbokke till mid Feb) – while scrumhalf Whestley Moolman is also out injured.

Potential Golden Lions team:

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Cmbrinck, 13 Dylan Des Fountain, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volminck, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 , 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Franco Mostert/Hugo Kloppers, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg

Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Franco Mostert/Hugo Kloppers, 19 Warwick Tecklenberg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Deon Helberg

Lions Challenge Superbru Pool:

Pool name: Sploggers
Pool code: hourtogo