It appears the Lions new shareholders, buoyed by the signing of Lionel Mapoe, have declared that money will not be an issue when acquiring new players for the now suddenly cash flush Johannesburg union.
The Lions are claiming that the Mapoe signing is a statement of intent for the Joburgers. This after John Smit, Ryan Kankowski and JP Pietersen all were rumoured to be on the shopping list of the Lions and all decided to stay with the Sharks. With Lions director of rugby Dick Muir having lots of sway with KZN-based rugby players, the Lions have seen Durban as a perfect place to find players to boost their squad. Up to now the guys who have gone to the Lions were fringe players who were not getting enough game time and moved up North to boost their chances of playing with the Pat Cilliers and Michael Rhodes joining Waylon Murray, Warren Whitely and Johan Snyman at the Lions.
In their wisdom, the Lions new shareholders have reportedly tried to lure Beast Mtawarira, who recently signed a 3 year contract with the Sharks, to the Lions although according to Beeld, Mtawarira was happy in Durban and did not want to move. Firstly the bold Lions, having signed Cilliers then showed interest in the guy whom he was benching behind at the Sharks. How would this make Cilliers feel? How’s that for unsettling a player you have just signed? I have it on quite good authority that the reason why players like Mostert, Alberts and Ludik wanted to leave the Lions was because they were treated so badly by their union. It might be a better option for the Lions to clean up their own house first before trying to populate that house with expensive furniture. It is probably quite plausible that all Smit, Kanko and JPP needed to do to make up their mind about the Lions was talk to one of Mostert, Alberts and Ludik and ask them how they were treated in Johannesburg to quickly make their mind up not to make the move and turn down the big money.
The Sharks were crowned Currie Cup champions and a big role in that victory was the team spirit within the squad. While the Lions have probably succeeded in gettting their fans excited with their bold claims, I can imagine there are some good players in the Lions set up shifting uncomfortably in their seats as the new shareholders roll out a list of names of players whom they want to sign. According to the Beeld the Lions will probably have to look overseas for new recruits in their desperate PR campaign as most of the top South African-based players already had contracts.
Forgive me if I think that this approach is not the right way to go about re-building a once proud union. It’s all well and good whipping your fans into a frenzy by signing big name players but in order to build a team, the foundations need to be solid. That means setting up a proper academy and bringing young players through from Craven Week through the age group teams and into the senior team. If we look at the Lions improved Currie Cup performance this year it was the younger players who brought the most to the team. Players like Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute were brought through and did well at Currie Cup level. The Lions have lost countless quality young players by not recognising the talent that they had at their disposal and losing them to other unions. This will probably continue if the Lions continually look at signing any player who might lift their public relations profile. Heyneke Meyer rebuilt the Bulls at the beginning of the last decade not by desperately looking to buy any big name player who is remotely available but rather by building strong junior foundations and building a strong team spirit around the whole union. Surely this is a better way of going about it for the Lions?Tweet