Rugby Guru

A Long Summer for the Lions?

Written by Neill Arnall (Rugby Guru)

Posted in :Lions, Original Content, Super 14 on 12 Jan 2009 at 20:15
Tagged with : , , , ,

This is the final year of Eugene Eloff’s three year plan, and as a result the poor, victory-starved Lions supporters can expect a significant improvement in their side’s fortunes in the 2009 Super XIV. At least that is the gist of an article that appears in the latest issue of the official Lion’s fan magazine

As a born and bred Lions supporter I have learned in recent years not to get too excited at this time of the year; and while I appreciate that Loffie (who is arguably one of the country’s better coaches) can no longer hide behind the “we are rebuilding” façade one has to question exactly what progress the Lions have made over the last few years and how this will translate to any level of on-field success.

The word being bandied about is that the Lions will be targeting a seventh or eighth place finish in this year’s competition. Now while that is a significant step up from being the perennial bottom feeders, as a dedicated rugby fan and Lions sympathiser these are my questions:

Firstly – what type of three year plan is designed to culminate in such levels of mediocrity? Surely the purpose of any formulated long term strategy is to achieve overall victory or at least a semi-final berth? Have the once powerful Lions (and they were the winners of the first Super 10) become so mediocre that an eighth place finish is viewed as a success?

Secondly – in general the Lions have over the years lost more players than they have signed and while Currie Cup form has always been consistent (granted thanks to the absence of the oppositions Springbok players) – what if any real rebuilding has taken place? How can a team affectionately referred to as the walking bonus point who have spent the last three years perfecting the art of losing suddenly develop a winning habit?

I know that Loffie is contractually obliged to walk the talk and another fourteenth place finish could well see him being forced to fall on his sword, but how can any coach believe that the acquisition of Henno Mentz and the American Todd Cleaver, plus the return of Jaques Fourie and Andre Pretorius will do anything other than reduce the Lions’ losing margins?

I would love to be proved wrong – but if experience has taught me anything it’s that you can count on the Lions to perform exactly one heroic feat in a season (such as deny the Stormers a bonus point) and then they settle down to the more serious business of fending off the challenge of the Cheetah’s for the coveted wooden spoon. To be blunt the only benefit associated with being a Lions supporter right now is that your season ticket includes the test match against the British Lions, but lets be realistic any movement the Lions are likely to make in the Super 14 logs has already been achieved by changing sponsors from Xerox to Auto and General which at least guarantees first place (at least alphabetically) until the season actually kicks off.


  • welcome to the site, Guru – a great article to kick things off.

  • Comment 1, posted at 12.01.09 20:52:45 by robdylan Reply
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  • A fellow Lions supporter, excellent ..we can watch in awe together how the Lions become great

    Very well written piece this..and I recall Loffie saying that he was working on a 3 year plan towards winning the super14 , now its a 8th place finish..what a load of hog-wash.

    Can’ blame him really he should have been able to hang onto our good players and get new ones in to realistically push for a semi.

  • Comment 2, posted at 12.01.09 22:49:16 by CoffeeShopBok;-) Reply

    csbSuper Rugby player
  • Thanks for the welcome guys! Especially to you Rob for letting me bring a little more of a ‘balanced’ viewpoint to all you Sharkies!

    CoffeeShopBok – we will always have hope! If you like my writing please see my other blogs at

  • Comment 3, posted at 12.01.09 23:41:59 by Rugby Guru Reply

    Rugby GuruUnder 21 player
  • Well written piece Guru, and Welcome to Sharksworld from my side as well.

    Two things have always been certain from the Lions.

    1) As Guru points out, Them denying some SA team a vital BP.
    2) Loffie saying he has a young team.

    I hope he doesn’t haul the we have a young team excuse out again this year.

    I must say though that a good flyhalh can make a mediocre team look very good and a bad flyhalf can make a good team look like the Cheetahs.

    Pretorius IS a good flyhalf and if he shakes the rust early and doesn’t get injured I think we can expect the Lions to be in the top half of the log.

  • Comment 4, posted at 13.01.09 06:48:48 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 4) : Petoors is only good on his good days… on his bad days, he’s awful!

  • Comment 5, posted at 13.01.09 06:54:58 by robdylan Reply
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  • Hi Guru
    As a fellow sufferer, I have to agree with you, but I blame it all on the management. Since Louis Luyt left, there has been poor leadership and I am not even sure who manages the union, but they are on a great wicket, nobody cares whether they win or loose, as you say a three year plan that aims for 7th or 8th is pathetic. I often wonder what happened to all the money when the Transvaal Rugby union used to boast it was the richest union in the world. With all due respect to the other unions we should have been able to embrace professionalism the best of all and we started pretty well with Pienaar, Wiese and the others, but Luyt was bent on getting revenge against Pienaar for his part in the pro circus and forcing Louis hand after the 95 world cup. In my opinion it all went down hill from there, together with Louis Luyt’s megalomania to arrive where we are now, happy with mediocrity. I am not sure Loffie is such a great coach, maybe at junior level , but we have lost a lot of great players while he has been in charge, granted there was the “shark and Bulls” cheque book involved in some, but if he was so good people would think twice about leaving. How could he let a player like Jean Deysel go, why did the Sharks see his potential and not Loffie, so not totally convinced, but would love to be proved wrong.

  • Comment 6, posted at 13.01.09 07:24:46 by Whindy Reply
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    WhindyCurrie Cup player
  • I’ve got take my hats off to you Lions supporters… I mean, even in the dark times, it’s felt like the Sharks had a plan… No, wait. I forgot about the latter stages of the Putt era

  • Comment 7, posted at 13.01.09 07:27:30 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Whindy (Comment 6) : letting Deysel go was a frankly appalling own-goal!

  • Comment 8, posted at 13.01.09 07:29:59 by robdylan Reply
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  • (Comment 8)And not even making any money on the deal. hello

  • Comment 9, posted at 13.01.09 07:31:45 by Whindy Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) :

    He has had two (or is it more) years of bad days and bad luck and I think he is due now.

    I must admit though that I want him to do well for the Lions so that we have a decent backup for Pienaar in the International season.

  • Comment 10, posted at 13.01.09 07:34:12 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • You guys forgot about Ashwin Willemse – SA Player of the Year in 2003. :roll:

  • Comment 11, posted at 13.01.09 08:16:07 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @wpw (Comment 11) :

    Who says we forgot about him… … … :smile:

    Maybe he just wasn’t worth mentioning. :razz:

  • Comment 12, posted at 13.01.09 08:38:39 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 12) : :mrgreen:

    Shame. Poor Ash… :oops:

  • Comment 13, posted at 13.01.09 08:40:43 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @wpw (Comment 13) :

    Let me go and find that article that he was mentioned in a few days ago.

  • Comment 14, posted at 13.01.09 08:43:03 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • Great article RG…

    Lol@ at the “sponsors” comment…

    Well, the Lions were my heroes in the final games of last year’s S14 – I hope they can turn things around this season.

    As the Sharks, we’ve seen the best and worst of Henno but a move to the Lions may revitalise him. (Ok-I don’t really believe this but what do you guys have left without faith?).

  • Comment 15, posted at 13.01.09 09:24:30 by blckshrk - PROTEAS Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
  • I am a bit of a fan of Loffie, but I reckon I am being proved wrong.

    Seems he cannot spot/hold onto talent for life or money.

  • Comment 16, posted at 13.01.09 10:25:58 by MorneN Reply
    MornéTeam captain
  • I’d be surprised if Andre Pretorius makes the halfway stage without getting injured. :roll:

  • Comment 17, posted at 13.01.09 10:28:23 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • @McLovin (Comment 17) : I’ll be amazed if he makes it through the warmup game

  • Comment 18, posted at 13.01.09 10:31:34 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 18) : He gets injured sitting on a plane. So I won’t be holding my breath. :roll:

  • Comment 19, posted at 13.01.09 10:35:12 by McLovin Reply

    McLovinAssistant coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 4) :

    Well KSA…we will only have Andre for about a game and a half…

    LoL…Hopefully after a year and a bit off has helped him recover fully this time…but then again…after you have not played for soooo long…how much can we really expect of him!??!

  • Comment 20, posted at 13.01.09 17:10:51 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • Hey rugbyguru…you must be one being a LIONS supporter and all…

    I do support the LIONS…but I am not really a real big supporter of them…but I do shout…LIONS every now and again…

  • Comment 21, posted at 13.01.09 17:14:26 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @Hmmm (Comment 20) :

  • Comment 22, posted at 13.01.09 17:14:44 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • Ash was very slow when he returned to rugby after his decade of injuries…hope they worked on that and his finishing abilities cozz he played a lot of games without scoring much if any in the CC last he played!??!

  • Comment 23, posted at 13.01.09 17:15:52 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • Well lets hope that the old heads bring stability and that the LIONS conditioning has improved…so that the players can last until the end of teh tournament and not win 5 from 6 and be in the top 3 of the log just to then lose 8 in a row and end in the bottom 3…

  • Comment 24, posted at 13.01.09 17:31:34 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @Whindy (Comment 6) : Whindy the information that I have regarding Jean deysel is that Loffie recognised his talent but had no funds to give him a contract. It was Loffie in fact who called up the Sharks and told them that Deysel was worth taking a look at. Not sure where that comes from but that seems to be something I remember reading

  • Comment 25, posted at 13.01.09 17:46:19 by Rugby Guru Reply

    Rugby GuruUnder 21 player
  • @Hmmm (Comment 21) : Hmmm – I have this belief (and it makes me feel better) that your life is more interseting if you support the Lions. Imagine how boring your weekend s are if you support the Crusaders, Manchester United, The Sharks and Tiger Woods. Us Lions we are grounded in reality and that makes victory more sweet (and of course more rare!)

  • Comment 26, posted at 13.01.09 17:49:14 by Rugby Guru Reply

    Rugby GuruUnder 21 player
  • @MorneN (Comment 16) : MorneN – Personally I believe its difficult to hold onto talent when your Union is in the financial doldrums, your homeground is alongside the most notorious druglord infested suburb in Africa and most of your players would rather be at unions where they can surf or walk on the beach when not at practice! Cruising Sandton City doesn’t quite compare to kicking back at Clifton or Umhlanga!

  • Comment 27, posted at 13.01.09 17:53:07 by Rugby Guru Reply

    Rugby GuruUnder 21 player
  • @Rugby Guru (Comment 27) :
    I have always liked the Lions – probably from watching some of the magical players in the 90′s.

    fact is, however, that none of those reasons should stop a team witht the Gauteng talent pool from failing like they have.

    I personally would rather see a purge at the Lions – I have no doubt that they have the ability and the clout to get back to the top.

    The fans and players will come when the team culture and results are better.

  • Comment 28, posted at 13.01.09 18:02:14 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 28) :

    The purge happened, we got rid of Ludeke, but unfortunately if we judge Loffie by the 2008 season he wasn’t the right replacement for Ludeke. I’m pretty sure Loffie won’t see out the 2009 season, by his own choice, he will take an overseas job. My feeling is that it will be after the S14 and not the CC.

  • Comment 29, posted at 13.01.09 19:00:43 by walter van Reply

    walter van Lions WorldCurrie Cup player
  • @walter van (Comment 29) : ah – there you are!

  • Comment 30, posted at 13.01.09 19:05:41 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
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  • @robdylan (Comment 30) :


  • Comment 31, posted at 13.01.09 19:19:35 by walter van Reply

    walter van Lions WorldCurrie Cup player
  • @walter van (Comment 31) : just wondering where you were :)

  • Comment 32, posted at 13.01.09 19:20:27 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
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  • I’m enjoying the long summer….

  • Comment 33, posted at 13.01.09 19:40:20 by walter van Reply

    walter van Lions WorldCurrie Cup player
  • @walter van (Comment 33) : nice weather?

  • Comment 34, posted at 13.01.09 19:57:28 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
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  • here you go, Hmmmmm

  • Comment 35, posted at 14.01.09 17:09:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @walter van (Comment 33) :
    A little gem this comment – way too sharp to be a Lions supporter. :lol:

  • Comment 36, posted at 14.01.09 17:17:18 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Rugby Guru (Comment 26) :

    LoL True…
    However I always suspect a win…but when I do that I remove all sense and logic from my thought else my heart will play second fiddle…
    That is why i never win or do too well on Super Bru…but should the LIONS win then I am going to an equal surprise package…LoL

  • Comment 37, posted at 16.01.09 09:49:42 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • Actually…our forwards have done well for a few seasons now and I believe will continue doing well…plus we have a lil more depth in the forwards so I am hoping they will not tire out here to the 3rd quarter of the season…

    Our backs might not be flashy…but they are consistent and I am sure they will be able to merely catch the ball and fall over…a task that was demanding a bit too much to ask from Benjamin last year….plus we have back-up that can fill shoes (Killian/Boshoff)…and won’t need to field players the likes of JacovS…or play JacoP…

    Our centre’s are stacked with Venter/Goodes/Doppies/Fourie/Jannie Boshoff (who is also cover for wing)…

  • Comment 38, posted at 16.01.09 10:05:10 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @Hmmm (Comment 38) : I believe Jaco VS has gone overseas in any case

  • Comment 39, posted at 16.01.09 10:21:33 by robdylan Reply
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