Amazingly enough, while there should be so much focus on the four teams that actually made the Currie Cup semis, it’s the Lions that seem to be grabbing the headlines.
New stories from Johannesburg are emerging on an almost hourly basis, most of them based on the theme of “X has now been linked to the vacant Director of Rugby post” or “player Y has signed with the Lions for 2010″. The occasional smattering of angry rhetoric from Manie Reynecke stating that “Z has a contract with us and is going nowhere” make up the balance.
Let’s try to summarise the goings on.
Ever since Jake White and his Highbury Safika-sponsored Winning Ways got their claws into the union, the knives were out for coach Loffie Eloff in a big way. The popular coach was duly sacked and Monument first team mentor Hans Coetzee installed as caretaker coach for the Currie Cup. Opinions differ somewhat as to whether any progress was made, with the Lions finishing sixth in the final standings. An impressive win over Western Province did a little to leave the supporters feeling better, but in the final analysis, only Boland and the Leopards did worse than the Lions this year. Certain “journalists” with pretty transparent White-blowing agendas will tell you that the Lions lost five games by fewer than five points and never conceded a four-try bonus-point over the course of the competition – sure proof that Jake has made a difference.
I say “looks at the scoreboard”, in the famous words of Oom Boy Louw.
So, the writing has been on the wall for Coetzee right from the starts and the position of Director, who will also be head coach in the Super 14, was duly advertised a few weeks ago. Rumours abounded about who may have applied (Alistair Coetzee’s name was mentioned, since he’s always been a close ally of White’s) and who, surprisingly, had not done so (current coach Hans Coetzee). Late-breaking news would indicate that a number of heavyweights, including Rudy “everything I touch turns to shit” Joubert and Heynecke Meyer have thrown their hats into the ring. Dick Muir, the current Springbok assistant coach, would now appear to be the front-runner, however and his name is expected to top the ultra-secret shortlist of five names that was apparently compiled late yesterday. A final decision is expected on Friday.
Now, not to shoot down the ambitions of either men, but I really can’t see why either Meyer or Muir would want the job. Both have coached, with great success, at Super 14 level already and left good, secure jobs with the Bulls and Sharks respectively because they felt they’d done all they could do at Super rugby level. Muir, in particular, would be crazy to give up his Bok assistant coach gig for this one… The other unknown, of course, is the extent to which White will still be involved next year. Should his consultancy firm have done enough to be retained, then expect to see a White yes-man appointed as head coach – either of the Coetzees, or even Eddie Jones would fit that bill.
On the player front, we’ve been told that none of Jacque Fourie, Willem Alberts or Louis Ludick is going anywhere, although the courts will soon rule on exactly how binding their contracts are. Should Fourie be forced to stay, then Alberts and Ludick will too. Should he be given a release to join Province, expect to see Alberts and Ludick in the black and white next season.
On the acquisitions front, the Lions are signing everything that isn’t bolted down. They have already announced the signing of Bulls’ third-choice flyhalf Burton Francis as their first-choice for next season. Add the name of journeyman Griquas skipper Jonathan Mokuena, while lock forward Jacques Lombard is also very close to signing. Bulls utility back Marius Delport, basically a JP Nel wannabe, only with fewer skills and less aggression, has also confirmed that he’ll be moving to Johannesburg next season.Tweet