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Ken Borland

Swys has brushed aside all teething problems & maintained Lions’ high standards 0

Posted on August 28, 2018 by Ken


Swys de Bruin endured some teething problems early on in his career as Lions head honcho, but hats off to the well-travelled coach for keeping the faith and his nerve and maintaining the high standards of excellence that have characterised Ellis Park as the team head into their third successive SuperRugby final on Saturday.

Change – especially when it involves losing someone as integral as Johan Ackermann – is often difficult but it is a credit to the smooth systems in place at Ellis Park and De Bruin’s own wisdom and level-headedness that the performance of the Lions in the long run has barely suffered.

It was not as smooth a road to the final this year, which has forced them to make the daunting trip to Christchurch, but reports of the Lions’ demise were greatly exaggerated. Sure, they have had their problems this season, but in a way that makes their achievement all the more impressive because they had to overcome greater challenges to reach the final.

Without their inspirational captain, Warren Whiteley, for most of the season, the Lions also lost their most influential player in Malcolm Marx at a crucial stage of the tournament while Jaco Kriel, a matchwinner, has been ruled out of the entire campaign due to injury. They also had to cope with the departure of integral players like Ruan Ackermann, Faf de Klerk and Akker van der Merwe, while also dealing with the rumours swirling around contracted players wanting to leave and those that did depart mid-season like Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Apart from still churning out the results against the odds, with so many things mounted against them, the Lions have also still played with flair, which is unsurprising considering how obsessed coach De Bruin is with scoring tries; in a sport which is marred by plenty of cynicism, it is refreshing to have a head coach state so openly, with almost childish naivety, that all he cares about are tries. But that is why most people started playing rugby.

Whatever the result of Saturday’s final, and it would be an upset for the ages if the Lions were to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch, they have done the nation proud. And I don’t agree with the prophets of doom who say it’s now or never for the Lions to win SuperRugby; these are probably the same naysayers who predicted the team would fall off the rails this year already.

The wonderful thing that the culture of success at Ellis Park – and here we must also give the credit to the superb leadership trio of Rudolf Straeuli, Kevin de Klerk and Altmann Allers – has done is to ensure that the Lions are now the team everyone wants to play for. It is the first port of call for the SA Schools star looking to start his professional career.

And the pipeline is working well. Players such as Madosh Tambwe, Marco Jansen van Vuuren, Len Massyn, Hacjivah Dayimani, Gianni Lombard, Jeanluc Cilliers, Wandisile Simelane, Reinhard Nothnagel, Keagan Glade, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Cristen van Niekerk, Mark Snyman and Yanga Hlalu will be at the vanguard of the Lions’ efforts to remain the undisputed champion franchise in South Africa.

It was not always thus and, as Allers said in his address at the post-match function after the semi-final win over the Waratahs, the last home game of the season, so many of the current Lions stars came to Ellis Park with the reject tags around the neck.

The irony is that so many of those players were shown the door just up the road at Loftus Versfeld, the former SuperRugby champions who used to be the place of choice for young players. The new Bulls coach, John Mitchell, is currently negotiating with the board to fix the mess that has been created there by years of terrible talent identification.

The beneficiaries have been the Lions and so many of the franchise’s stars now carry a new label, the precious tag of being a Springbok.







‘A good result but not a top-class performance’ – Gold 0

Posted on March 01, 2016 by Ken


Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold was happy with the result but not entirely satisfied by the performance in relation to the top-class standards he has set, after his team started their SuperRugby campaign with a 43-8 bonus point win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

The Sharks struggled in the first half against a tenacious Kings outfit, making numerous basic errors and showing lapses in discipline. They only led 15-8 at the break, with the home side spurning five points via missed kicks at goal, but the Sharks turned it on in the second half, scoring four more impressive tries as they stormed to victory.

“Obviously I’m by and large happy, to get five points on the first weekend is good, but there were a lot of opportunities we didn’t take, which we should have by the standards we set ourselves. I completely understand that you’re not going to get a perfect game first up, but there were some obvious opportunities we wasted,” Gold said.

When the Sharks were able to get quick ball, they looked dangerous, and the likes of Willie le Roux, Paul Jordaan, Joe Pietersen and wings Odwa Ndungane and Lwazi Mvovo broke free in the second half.

“We definitely asked some questions on attack and we’ll get better the longer we are together. The defence was also very good and we scrambled well, but there is definitely room for improvement, especially because we play the Jaguares next, who I thought were very good on the weekend. We’ll need a lot better set-piece,” Gold added.

Ndungane showed he is still a clinical finisher with two tries, with the others going to man of the match Jean-Luc du Preez, who produced another powerhouse performance in the loose trio, Le Roux, Jordaan, who showed very promising signs at outside centre, and Mvovo. Pietersen missed just one kick at goal as he slotted five conversions and a penalty, while also distributing the ball well from flyhalf in the second half.

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