It’s an issue that’s been a serious limiting factor for the “big three” sides in SA Rugby, namely the Sharks, Bulls and Western Province as they attempt to be competitive in the continually watered down Currie Cup competition – I’m talking, of course, about the loss of players to the Springbok side for most, if not all, of the competition.
For the Lions, ironically, this mass culling of personnel from the squads of their fiercest opponents has proved a boon indeed and even the most die-hard of fans of that beleaguered side would, I’m sure, admit that they would have been hard-pressed indeed to win the Currie Cup trophy last year had the Sharks, Bulls and Province not been severely weakened through losses to the Bok World Cup squad. The same holds to an extent this year, with the Sharks and Bulls again decimated, whilst Province are forced to contend with Bok call-ups and mounting injuries in pretty much even proportions.
The Lions, thus far, have emerged largely unscathed and are again in the pound seats after their umpteenth home win against the Sharks; a clear three points ahead of their nearest rivals on the Currie Cup log. The wheel, though, has turned – if only slightly – with three of their own players now summoned to join the Bok cause.
While his detractors would argue that losing CJ van der Linde is hardly a blow at all, the veteran prop has actually been very good as an impact replacement in this Currie Cup and adds a fair bit more punch that his young understudy, Ruan Dreyer, does at this stage of their respective careers. It’s the loss of key play-makers in Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute, though, that will hit the Lions hardest and with their late-season calendar comprising away fixtures against Western Province and Griquas (the only side to win at Coca Cola Park this year) before a home clash against the desperate Blue Bulls, the Lions can ill-afford to be without any big guns as the campaign reaches its climax.
They have proved, though, that they can carry their weight in this tournament without the presence of any big guns in their squad, although the way Jantjies, in particular, has been playing the last few weeks you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone better in the entire Currie Cup. The challenge for the Lions will be to show that they are more than a one-man team. They’ll need to adjust quickly, though, because a heavy loss at Newlands this week could see them drop from first to as low as third in one fell swoop.
Man, I love this competition!Tweet