News out today is that the Lions appear to have successfully negotiated the release of Bulls junior coach Nico Serfontein from his contract at Loftus and an announcement that he is officially crossing the Jukskei should be made later this afternoon. Serfontein has been a huge part of the Bulls success in lower-level competitions since he was recruited by Heyneke Meyer to oversee junior rugby in Pretoria back in 2002.
As head coach of the Vodacom Cup and Under 21 teams for the last few years, the 42-year-old former Affies pupil has enjoyed tremendous success, reaching 11 finals and winning 7 trophies in nine years. The Blue Bulls won the Vodacom Cup in 2010 , as well as being pipped at the post by Western Province in the under 21 final. More significantly, a large number of the current Bulls senior squad have come through the structures that Serfontein and Meyer helped to build and the former’s coaching and tutelage have been instrumental in the development of many of the current Bulls stars.
Understood to be frustrated with a lack of career development opportunities in Pretoria – since Meyer and Head Coach Frans Ludeke seem to have the senior coaching positions well tied-up – Serfontein is now keen to take up the challenge of rebuilding the Lions’ fortunes from the bottom up, as their new head of junior rugby. There has, of course, been a significant jump in salary offered, just to make the carrot taste that much sweeter! The Lions have been in something of a mess for the last few years, with little structure or plan to their junior teams, resulting in some truly uninspiring performances (including no Lions representation in the semi-finals of either junior competition in 2010).
While I may not agree with many of the things the Lions have done of late, I must say that luring Serfontein to Joburg to sort out the junior structures and build a solid base for success in the future is a hugely positive step and one which should see them reap great rewards in the years to come. The move leaves the Bulls in a bit of a fix, though, as they don’t have anyone obvious standing by to take the reigns in the Vodacom Cup. Front-runners must include under-19 coach Paul Anthony, as well as Meyer himself, who is already making a return to “hands-on” coaching through and advisory role with the Tukkies Varsity Cup team. The defection of Serfontein, coupled with the tragic loss (at least temporarily) of High-Performance Director Ian Schwartz, has left the Bulls in somewhat of a quandary, though, at the worst possible time, given that a number of their senior squad are likely to step down in the next year or so.
Another loose end that will need to be tied up is the situation with former Lions flanker Ian Macdonald, who was, according to reports, appointed as Lions Vodacom Cup coach just a few weeks ago. It is not currently known whether he will work alongside Serfontein, or will be shown the door.Tweet