The damage can't be undone

Tue, 23 Jul 2013 06:49
Large alan solomons kings presser Large johan ackermann mic Large matt sexton   alan solomon2 Large swys de bruin   johan acker Large matt sexton   alan solomon2 Large johan ackermann points 630 Large alan solomons  hand on head Large johan ackermann lions point

It is not a Final; in fact it is the other end of the scale. However, the Kings v Lions promotion-relegation series is of equally epic importance.

It is not a Final; in fact it is the other end of the scale. However, the Southern Kings versus Lions promotion-relegation series is of equally epic importance.

In fact in some respects it is of even greater consequence, as the very existence and survival of both franchises depend on the outcome of this two-match series - starting in Port Elizabeth on Friday (July 26) and then concluding in Johannesburg a week later (Saturday, August 3).

Both Kings Director of Rugby Alan Solomons and Lions coach Johan Ackermann agree the stakes are high.

They feel the damage done by defeat is likely to linger for years.

For the loser there is nothing left but another season (or perhaps even more) in the wilderness and a bitter fight for survival at the lower end of the scale.

The winner can reap the rewards that go with Super Rugby status - the interest of sponsors, bigger gate takings, quality rugby and most important of all being an attractive option for top quality players.

"What is really at stake as far as these two games are concerned is the welfare of these two franchises," was the blunt assessment of the Kings boss, Solomons.

Solomons feels that the loser will, until at least 2016 when a new tournament format comes up for consideration by SANZAR, be out of Super Rugby.

"The consequences for either franchises are massive," the Kings boss said, adding: "Fundamentally, you will be in the wilderness."

Ackermann echoed similar sentiments.

"We all know how important it is and the [Lions] players are hungry to get another taste of Super Rugby," he said, adding: "We can't hide from the fact that there's a lot at stake and for both teams there are two important weeks ahead."

Both coaches pointed out the perils of defeat in what will be an epic battle of survival. "The franchise that comes off second best is going to have a very, very difficult time," Solomons said.

"Not only will it be difficult to retain players, it will be very difficult for them to operate as a franchise or union," he said in reference to the Kings' struggles before their entry into the competition this year.

Ackermann, who has struggled this year to not only retain a reasonable core group of players - with a host of senior players either going out on loan to Super Rugby franchises and a significant number actually signing with franchises guaranteed Super Rugby status - now knows what the Kings went through.

Add to that the lack of quality game time and the consequence is obvious.

"It [defeat] will be a huge blow for either union," the Lions coach said, adding: "In their case, having been in just for one year, then fall out and stop the entire process it will be an enormous setback.

"In our case, it will mean we have to start rebuilding again, we will lose players to other unions again and we have to start at the bottom again.

"For us it is important to retain this group [of players] we have and in order to do that we have to get back into Super Rugby.

"If we get into Super Rugby we will have the ability to lure other players to the Lions as well.

"The fact is both teams have exactly the same pressure and [face] the same imperilment."

Solomons admitted there will be an enormous amount of emotion attached to the build-up of these games.

"You have got to accept that there is going to be a lot of emotion floating around," the Kings boss said, adding: "There is no doubt about it, for both teams.

"One has got to deal with that emotion and have mechanisms in place to ensure the emotions are channeled in the correct direction and adds to, as opposed to detracting from, the team performance."

By Jan de Koning

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Fri, 09 October 2015
Western Province v EP Kings 16h00 Newlands
Pumas v Blue Bulls 16h00 Mbombela Stadium
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Sat, 10 October 2015
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Golden Lions v Griquas 14h00 Ellis Park
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Sun, 11 October 2015
Argentina v Namibia 11h00 Leicester
Italy v Romania 13h30 Exeter
France v Ireland 15h45 Cardiff
United States v Japan 19h00 Gloucester
Wed, 07 October 2015
Namibia v Georgia 16 | 17
South Africa v United States 64 | 0
Tue, 06 October 2015
Fiji v Uruguay 47 | 15
Canada v Romania 15 | 17
Sun, 04 October 2015
Ireland v Italy 16 | 9
Argentina v Tonga 45 | 16
Zebre v Scarlets 8 | 20
Sat, 03 October 2015
England v Australia 13 | 33
Connacht v Cardiff Blues 36 | 31
South Africa v Scotland 34 | 16
Samoa v Japan 5 | 26
Leinster v Dragons 37 | 13
Griquas v Sharks 20 | 45
Pumas v Free State Cheetahs 37 | 37
Fri, 02 October 2015
New Zealand v Georgia 43 | 10
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 16 11 0 5 52
Brumbies 16 9 0 7 47
Rebels 16 7 0 9 36
Reds 16 4 0 12 22
Force 16 3 0 13 19
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 0 2 66
Highlanders 16 11 0 5 53
Chiefs 16 10 0 6 48
Crusaders 16 9 0 7 46
Blues 16 3 0 13 20
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 16 10 1 5 45
Lions 16 9 1 6 42
Bulls 16 7 0 9 38
Sharks 16 7 0 9 34
Cheetahs 16 5 0 11 26