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.Tweet