Ex Supersport - by Baylion
First, some good news: The Lions vs Russia match on 19 January at 19h00 will be broadcast LIVE on DSTV SS1 and SHD.
To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”.
I’m not going to dwell on the negatives, suffice to say that after 2012 started with high hopes the Lions were knocked back by a poor Super Rugby season to be followed by being dumped from the competition by SARU and the South Africa rugby administrators. (Blame the poor Super 15 campaign on injuries)
As if that were not enough the Lions players and management didn’t do the team any favours by starting a legal battle they couldn’t finish when they tried to oust John Mitchell. After all the stories of player complaints apparently only two players turned up to give evidence, a serious indictment of the ringleaders in this drama, most of whom have now left for distant shores.
However, it was a year of triumphs as well, an incredibly successful season in some ways.
The most successful aspect of the Lions season is the fact that, after years of not producing any Springboks, they suddenly have seven players in the Springbok EOYT squad. Even though they may not all have been given time on the field it is clearly a sign that something had gone right amidst all the drama at the union. (Proving onceMore that John MItchell is a fine coach trying to inculcate a winning culture and being thrawted by some lazy players)
The 2013 season now looms big before the Lions. Their enforced hiatus from Super Rugby has to be used productively to rebuild the team and the union into a competitive unit.
The Lions have schedule a full season of matches against non-traditional opponents starting with Russia on 19 January with a full season of Vodacom Cup matches thrown in. Come July 27 the Lions will have no excuses and when they play the first of the wooden spoon knock out matches, they should be match fit with at least 23 matches under the belt.
The big issues for the Lions will be how they not only develop new players to replace the 21 players who left during 2012, either in permanent moves, retirement or on loan to other franchises, but also how they manage their players to minimise injuries and fatigue (THAT APPLIES TO ALL OUR SUPER 15 FRANCHISES - FAIL HERE AND YOU WILL NOT WIN THE SUPER 15 - WITNESS THE MIGHTY STORMERS WITH ALL THEIR INJURIES NOT HAVING PLAYERS AVAILABLE IN THE BUSINESS END OF THE COMP). Losing in the wooden spoon playoffs due to too many injuries will be inexcusable.
While the Lions lost a number of key and first choice players they, surprisingly, retained a good core of senior players while signing a number of new players. These senior players, together with youngsters coming through and the new recruits, will have to pull the Lions through what promises to be a testing first semester.
The elephant in the room, however, remains John Mitchell. Will his presence as a consultant be beneficial or will it be disruptive? (Again proving th ehigh regard the Union has for John - case closed)
The fixture list (including Vodacom Cup):
19-Jan-13 vs Russia @ Ellis Park
23-Jan-13 vs Cheetahs @ Ellis Park
2-Feb-13 vs Bulls @ Orlando Stadium
9-Feb-13 vs Kings @ Ellis Park (Tha tshoul db every interesting - Lions of course severely depelte dbuy hopefully will send the queens packing - sorry Luke but you guys do not occupy the moral high ground here)
23 Feb-13 vs Namibia @ Windhoek, Namibia
2 March 2013 vs Blue Bulls (Vodacom Cup)
9 March 2013 vs Griffons (Vodacom Cup)
16-Mar-13 vs Mont de Marsan @ Ellis Park
16 March 2013 vs Leopards (Vodacom Cup)
23 March 2013 vs Pumas (Vodacom Cup)
6 April 2013 vs Falcons (Vodacom Cup)
13-Apr-13 vs US Invitational in Irvine, CA, USA
20-Apr-13 vs US Invitational in Vancouver, Canada
20 April 2013 vs Limpopo (Vodacom Cup)
27- Apr-13 vs Chicago Lions @ Chicago, IL, USA
27 April 2013 vs Zimbabwe (Vodacom Cup)
11-May-13 vs Agen @ Ellis Park
11 May 2013 Vodacom Cup QF
18 May 2013 Vodacom Cup SF
25 May 2013 Vodacom Cup Final
1-Jun-13 vs Samoa @ Ellis Park
8-Jun-13 vs French Barbarians @ Ellis Park
15-Jun-13 vs Stormers @ Ellis Park
21-Jun-13 vs Sharks @ Ellis Park
12-Jul-13 vs Montpellier @ Ellis Park
20-Jul-13 vs Grenoble @ Ellis Park
27-Jul-13 Wooden Spoon Knockout away
3-Aug-13 Wooden Spoon Knockout @ Ellis Park
Extended squad (currently known):
Francois du Toit
Mark Pretorius u/21
JC Janse van Rensburg
CJ van der Linde
Jacques van Rooyen
Gideon Muller u/21
Jacques Kotze u/21
Ruan Venter u/21
Stephan de Witt u/21
Ruan Lerm u/21
Fabian Booysen u/21
Vian van der Watt u/21
Marais Schmidt u/21
Dylan Des Fountain
Deon van Rensburg
Robert du Bruyn
Kobus de Kock