Former New Zealand All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick has blasted the failures in this season’s Super 14.
And high among the New Zealander’s targets was the South African franchise, the Johannesburg-based Lions.
Fitzpatrick watched the Lions’ 38-12 hammering by the Hurricanes in Wellington at the weekend and launched a savage attack on the South African players.
He said: “It’s pretty disappointing to see the Lions perform like this.
“Those guys should be handing back their pay cheques after this performance.
“We always used to fear the old Transvaal when we went there and played them – more so than any other province. So it’s pretty disappointing to see them like this. It was a poor performance.
Fitzpatrick reserved special criticism for Lions fullback Earl Rose, who put in a dire performance.
His wildly ambitious run from behind his own goalline and subsequent floated pass to Joe van Niekerk which was stolen from the backrow player by Hurricanes hooker Andrew Hore for a try, summed up Rose’s day.
He dropped simple kicks, knocked on and ran hopeless lines.
Fitzpatrick’s summary of him was withering in the extreme. “Poor old Earl Rose. He looked like he got his pay cheque from the Hurricanes,” joked Fitzpatrick.
But it wasn’t just the South Africans who felt the rough end of Fitzpatrick’s tongue.
Even the New Zealanders came in for criticism from the man who won 92 Test caps from 1986 to 1997 and easily holds the record for the most Tests as All Blacks captain at 51.
He said of the Highlanders, who just edged out the Cheetahs 31-28 in Bloemfontein at the weekend: “It doesn’t look as though they’re good enough.
“It doesn’t seem as though the players are there for a fifth New Zealand provincial team.”
Much the same is looking the case in South African rugby with the Lions hopelessly adrift at the bottom of the table on just eight points, with only one win from their 11 games.
The Cheetahs are next to bottom with 13 points, but have also only won once.
Then come the Highlanders, with two wins from 11 games and 15 points.
All of which helps explain why the New Zealand Rugby Union is turning its own stubbornly-held policy towards the Super 14 completely on its head, by agreeing to talks with the Pacific island nations about the future.
The cupboard is starting to look disturbingly thin in New Zealand, and South African rugby, with the Lions and Cheetahs in the bottom two, is not a lot better.
Peter Bills for IOLTweet