Lions in state of uncertainty

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 11:12

SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW 2018 - TEAM BY TEAM: In the first instalment of our 15-part build-up to the season we look at the Lions. It will be followed by the rest of the teams in the South African conference - then the other conferences.

There is an air of uncertainty surrounding a Lions team that reached the Final the last two years.

It is the change in the coaching ranks that has brought that uncertainty.

Yes, there are a number of key players who also departed - most notably Ruan Ackermann (to Gloucester), Francois de Klerk (Sale), Armand van der Merwe (Sharks) and Julian Redelinghuys (retired).

However, the departure of Johan Ackermann (now the Gloucester coach) and JP Ferreira (Munster) has the cynics suggesting the Lions' dominance of the South African Super Rugby scene is over.

The Lions are on a 17-match winning streak against SA franchises - their last defeat a 33-35 loss to the Bulls in May 2015.

Zacharia Francois de Bruin will finally step out of the shadow of Ackermann, after having been his trusted sidekick since 2013.

The man, affectionately known as Swys, readily admits repeating the feats of 2016 and 2017 will be a tall order.

"No doubt, the competition will be much tougher - it will be a much bigger challenge, as it will be strength-versus-strength," De Bruin said.

De Bruin's coaching pedigree should leave no doubt that he can do the job, despite the scepticism of the many naysayers.

There will be challenges, but with the bulk of the squad from the last two years in place, there is no reason why they should not be in the running for top spot in the conference - or at least reach the play-offs.

The key areas for the Lions, where they are a bit thin in terms of resources, are scrumhalf and flyhalf.

De Klerk's departure could thrust young Marco Jansen van Vuren into the spotlight - as back-up to Springbok Ross Cronje and Dillon Smit.

The back-up to Springbok Elton Jantjies at flyhalf will be Andries Coetzee and Shaun Reynolds, but there is also the talented young Ashlon Davids.

Talent there is aplenty. Experience at Super Rugby level, not so much.

Tighthead prop could also be an issue for the Lions, who pride themselves on their powerful scrumming.

For the rest, they have enough stock to cope with the rigours of Super Rugby.

2018 Predictions
South African Conference Placing: First
Player of the Year: Malcolm Marx
Rookie of the Year: Hacjivah Dayimani
Super Rugby Placing: Second

Squad Movements

In: Christiaan Meyer (Griquas), Khwezi Mona (Pumas).

Out: Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester), Fabian Booysen (released), Francois de Klerk (Sale), Jacques Nel (Kings), Armand van der Merwe (Sharks), Jaco van der Walt (Edinburgh), Hencus van Wyk (Munakata Sanix Blues), Julian Redelinghuys (retired), Anthony Volmink (Kings).

Squad (provisional): Justin Ackerman, Ruan Dreyer, Corné Fourie, Johannes Jonker, Sti Sithole, Dylan Smith, Jacques van Rooyen, Robbie Coetzee, Malcolm Marx, Lourens Erasmus, Andries Ferreira, Robert Kruger, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, Cyle Brink, Hacjivah Dayimani, Jaco Kriel, Albertus Smith, Warren Whiteley, Ross Cronjé, Dillon Smit, Andries Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Shaun Reynolds, Christiaan Meyer, Khwezi Mona, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lionel Mapoe, Howard Mnisi, Harold Vorster, Ruan Combrinck, Courtnall Skosan, Madosh Tambwe, Sylvian Mahuza', Marco Jansen van Vuren, .

History

Best finish: Champions in 1993 (Some purists dismiss their Super 10 title as being in the amateur era. They were runners-up in 2016 and 17)

Worst finish: Fifteenth in 2012

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Don't miss the rest of the South African conference, as well as the New Zealand and Australian conferences in the coming weeks.

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 24 February 2018
Sunwolves v Brumbies 04h15 Tokyo
Crusaders v Chiefs 06h35 Christchurch
Waratahs v Stormers 08h45 Allianz Park
Treviso v Connacht 12h00 Stadio Monigo
Lions v Jaguares 13h05 Johannesburg
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Ireland v Wales 14h15 Aviva Stadium
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons 14h30 Twickenham Stoop
Gloucester v Wasps 14h30 Kingsholm
Bath v Sale Sharks 14h30 Recreation Ground
Bulls v Hurricanes 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Scotland v England 16h45 BT Murrayfield
Ospreys v Cheetahs 17h30 Liberty Stadium
Scarlets v Ulster 19h35 Parc y Scarlets
Sun, 25 February 2018
Zebre v Cardiff Blues 13h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
London Irish v Worcester Warriors 13h00 Madejski Stadium
Saracens v Leicester Tigers 15h30 Allianz Park
Fri, 02 March 2018
Blues v Chiefs 06h35 Eden Park
Reds v Brumbies 09h00 Suncorp Stadium
Kings v Dragons 17h35 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Edinburgh v Munster 19h35 Myreside
Cardiff Blues v Treviso 19h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 19h35 Kingspan Stadium
Harlequins v Bath 19h45 Twickenham Stoop
Sat, 03 March 2018
Sunwolves v Rebels 22h00 Tokyo
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 23 February 2018
France v Italy 34 | 17
Leinster v Kings 64 | 7
Dragons v Edinburgh 12 | 25
Munster v Glasgow Warriors 21 | 10
Rebels v Reds 45 | 19
Highlanders v Blues 41 | 34
Mon, 19 February 2018
NWU-Pukke v UJ 18 | 15
Maties v CUT-Ixias 75 | 12
UCT-Ikeys v Shimlas 27 | 32
NMMU-Madibaz v Wits 29 | 32
Sun, 18 February 2018
Dragons v Treviso 15 | 18
Wasps v Exeter Chiefs 13 | 7
Sat, 17 February 2018
Cardiff Blues v Munster 25 | 18
Lions v Sharks 26 | 19
Leinster v Scarlets 20 | 13
SUPER RUGBY
MORE LOGS
Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 1 1 0 0 5
Brumbies 0 0 0 0 0
Waratahs 0 0 0 0 0
Sunwolves 0 0 0 0 0
Reds 1 0 0 1 0
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Highlanders 1 1 0 0 4
Blues 1 0 0 1 1
Crusaders 0 0 0 0 0
Hurricanes 0 0 0 0 0
Chiefs 0 0 0 0 0
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 1 1 0 0 4
Lions 1 1 0 0 4
Sharks 1 0 0 1 1
Bulls 0 0 0 0 0
Jaguares 1 0 0 1 0