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How To Enjoy The Six Nations
December 1, 2016 - While the South African national rugby team aren’t in the European tournament the Rugby Six Nations (yet), there is a lot of hype about this international event that you are not going to want to miss out on, despite the Lions squad not being involved. However, with due to TV demands, it is suggested that South Africa may end up joining the competition, so you may want to enjoy the tournament before the squad do in order to see the potential competition that the South African squad may face in the future. If you’re thinking about heading to one of the games, or you’re simply watching from home, there are a few ways that you can enjoy the Six Nations in the best way possible.
At The Game
If you are heading to the game and you really want to enjoy a unique experience at whatever stadium you are looking to visit across Europe, then corporate or hospitality packages are some of the best ways to do this. If you’re heading to Cardiff, you can find Principality Stadium hospitality quite easily. The stadiums that host the Six Nations have been hosting rugby events for many years, as well as a number of other sports, and with this experience, you can be certain that you will discover a corporate experience that shouldn’t be missed. You can combine the thrill of the game, with a fine dine experience, VIP treatment and much more all as part of the package. Whether you’re heading to Cardiff, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris or Rome as part of the Six Nations tournament, you can find some of the best hospitality and corporate package to make your day even more hassle-free and enjoyable.
However, if you want to get in the crowd and enjoy the stadium thrill as a regular punter, then you can do so but it is recommended that you book up your tickets far in advance if you want a good seat, as the tournament can sell out very quickly.
If you have family and friends who are passionate about rugby, then you’re going to want to ensure that you have a good TV setup to watch the Six Nations. Whether you have a number of screens or surround sound, or simply a good sitting area so everybody can enjoy watching the team together then you can create your own atmosphere at home. You can even take this one step further and take on a second team that you will support throughout the Six Nations, and hope that one day South Africa will be playing in the Northern Hemisphere as part of the Six Nations tournament in the very near future, as Saracens chairman Nigel Wray believes. While the Rugby Championship is enjoyed in the country as the equivalent to the Rugby Six Nations, where South Africa play against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand, time zones are currently a bit of a problem for the team, which is why they may end up playing in the Six Nations with the European teams in the near future.
What Shape Are England In Going Into The Autumn Internationals?
November 3, 2016 - Since May, the England team have been enjoying an undefeated run that started when they picked up a 27-13 win over Wales. They followed this up with 39-28, 23-7 and 44-40 wins against Australia in three subsequent matches. Now Eddie Jones has selected his squad for the Autumn Internationals where the Lions will face South Africa, Fiji, Australia and Argentina. You can use the new Ladbrokes Rugby Score Generator if you fancy predicting the results for fun. He we take an in depth look at England’s upcoming opponents in their last matches before the Six Nations in February.
England have picked up a few wins over the Aussies in friendlies this year, but were humiliated when it counted in last year’s World Cup. Eddie Jones will be keen to ensure that his afternoon isn’t peppered with regret as he hopes to beat Australia one more time, purely for bragging rights before the Six Nations. This England team does have a number of injuries, plus Eddie Jones has decided to put his faith in a number of uncapped youngsters, although nobody is denying their individual talents. Aussie born Jones does know his home country’s team very well, and that might give him a slim advantage.
Another stern challenge for England as the best they have managed against the Springboks is one draw from their last 12 encounters. This could be the ideal opportunity for the youngsters to impress as they fill in for the injured regulars. While England aren’t favoured for this game, they do have the home field advantage, how far that advantage will take them remains to be seen.
A fierce rival for England in football as well, clashes with Argentina are not for the light-hearted rugby fan. It’s been three years since these teams met, and the England team won 31-12 on that occasion. At the very least it will be interesting what changes have happened to both teams over the past three years, in fact there were a number of young Argentines who were very impressive in last year’s World Cup. This game is way too close, but either way you can expect it to be very entertaining.
Also a familiar opponent from the 2015 World Cup, with England winning with an impressive score of 35-11 on that occasion. Test matches have been kind to England as they currently have a 100% record against Fiji, which they’ll be looking to extend. They first met back in 1988 and have played each other six times. While I’m sure Jones will prepare his players against complacency as nothing is a give in rugby. Besides, Fiji have struck a patch of good form recently and will fancy their chances against an England team that is suffering injuries and has a number of new faces.
My trip to Bloemfontein for the semi-final
October 16, 2016 - I don't have good memories of my first trip to watch rugby at Bloemfontein 39 years ago.
It was 18 June 1977, and my dad decided a road trip to watch Transvaal play Free State at Bloemfontein was in order. Free State was the defending Currie Cup champion, having beaten Western Province 33-16 in the final in Bloemfontein the year before, this after losing the final to Northern Transvaal 12-6, also in Bloemfontein, in 1975.
Interest in rugby was at an all time high in 1977 after the Springboks recorded a 3-1 test series victory over New Zealand in South Africa in 1976, also the first test series that was ever broadcast live on television in our country as 1976 was the first year of television in South Africa.
Transvaal named what seemed a strong side for the match, with 3 players from the Springbok side from 1976 included, namely Johan Strauss at Tighthead, Paul Bayvel at Scrumhalf, and Gerald Bosch at Flyhalf. The two other Transvaal Springboks from 1976, Jan Ellis (Flanker) and Kevin de Klerk (Lock) was not in the team that day.
The team was: 15. Joe Coetser, 14. Carel Fourie, 13. Dries Maritz, 12. Tommy Symons, 11. Johan van Wyngaardt, 10. Gerald Bosch, 9. Paul Bayvel, 8. Peter Cloete, 7. Johan Claassen, 6. Corrie Pypers, 5. Salty du Randt (c), 4. Dirk Naude, 3. Johan Strauss, 2. Gerald Venter, 1. Richard Prentiss.
I was just 11 years old at the time, so I'm not 100% sure about the Free State team for that day, but I think it included players like De Wet Ras at Flyhalf, Gerrie Germishuys and Hermanus Potgieter on the Wing, Barry Wolmarans at Scrumhalf, Theuns Stofberg at Flanker, Gysie Pienaar at Fullback and Dirk Froneman at Centre.
So my dad, his younger brother Danie, a friend of my dad, Danie Greyling and myself, left for Bloemfontein early on the Saturday morning. Those days the N1 Highway didn't exist so it was a long drive from town to town to get to Bloemfontein. When we got there it was an icy cold day, and the stands in those days didn't protect us against the icy wind.
The rugby that Free State dished up on the day was far from cold, they were in the mood for running rugby, and Transvaal looked like they forgot how to tackle, and the Final score was 50-9 for Free State, with our only points coming from 3 penalties by Gerald Bosch. I don't know how many tries Free State scored, but it was a lot, and keep in mind that tries only counted 4 points those days, as it was only changed to 5 points in 1992.
Fast forward to 2016. The Lions lost quite a few of their players from the 2015 season to Springbok duty and had a bit of an up-and-down Currie Cup season, unbeaten at home but also only managing one win away from home (a 71-7 win against the poor EP Kings in Port Elizabeth).
The Lions only just scraped into the play-offs by beating the Sharks two weeks before, winning 28-16 after trailing 13-0 at one stage.
On the weekend before the semi-final we decided to apply for media accreditation to attend the match, and then also received an invitation from the Lions to travel with their media shuttle to Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs approved our application and we were all set for the trip.
My thinking was that it would be a difficult match, with the Cheetahs enjoying an unbeaten run in the competition, but I certainly felt that we had a chance of causing an upset, this after we gave them a good match in Bloemfontein just a month ago, where we were leading 26-15 at Half Time but then let the lead slip with poor discipline to eventually lose 37-29. The only concern for me in our team that was named on the Thursday was that we picked two locks that as a combination was a bit on the light and short side.
We boarded the media shuttle at 8:30 on Saturday morning with 3 photographers and 5 rugby writers and our driver Pieter, also a huge Lions fan, and headed for Bloemfontein, accompanied by a Supporters Bus, also organised by the Lions, with about 50 enthusiastic Lions Supporters on board.
We got to Bloemfontein about 90 minutes before kickoff, and immediately saw quite dark clouds to the South of the stadium that looked like rain clouds, but we were assured by local rugby writer for Beeld/Rapport, Hendrik Cronje, that the rain in Bloemfontein comes from the West.
Unfortunately the rain did come down almost immediately after kickoff and made conditions tricky for both teams, with quite a number of players losing their footing during play.
The Lions were put under huge pressure by the Cheetahs right from the start, with the Lions pinned in their own half and the Cheetahs taking the lead with two early penalties to go 6-0 up.
The Cheetahs then scored the 1st try of the match when Sergeal Petersen took a brilliant pass from Cassiem and sprinted in for a try in the right corner. Sad to say that this try was scored after the Lions failed to find touch from a penalty. Marais kicked the conversion to put the Cheetahs 13-0 up.
About 10 minutes later Anthony Volmink was concussed when he shot up in defense to stop another Cheetah attack but went in too high in the tackle and clashed heads with the Cheetah attacker and came of second best. He was replaced by Sylvian Mahuza.
Shortly afterwards referee Rasta Rasivhenge lost patience with the Lions having conceded too many penalties in defense and yellow carded Flanker Cyle Brink. While he was in the sin bin the Cheetahs added another converted try and penalty for a 26-0 lead.
The Lions finished the 1st half strong on the attack but then a handling error close to the try-line saw them finish the half with this huge 26-0 deficit.
In the second half the Cheetahs put the result beyond any doubt when Niell Jordaan attacked the blind side from a ruck, catching the Lions defense sleeping, and scored a try, this in the 1st minute of the second half. In the end the Cheetahs ran out 55-17 winners, spoiling my Bloemfontein trip just like the team from 1977 did.
Julian Redelinghuys was injured during the second half of the match and left the field on a stretcher, and on the trip back to Johannesburg we received word from the Lions team doctor that it was a dislocation injury and that Julian was in hospital in Bloemfontein where he would be operated on on Sunday but that he was expected to make a full recovery, even though he would be ruled out of rugby for quite a while.
Looking at the 2016 season as a whole, it was a great year for the Lions and their supporters, with the team reaching the Super Rugby final and the Currie Cup semi-final, and then also the Under 19 and Under 21 sides reaching the finals where both teams will play Western Province next weekend. The ladies side also reached their final where they lost to Free State.
Lessons learned from this season is hopefully that you need to try and play knock-out games at home where you stand a better chance of winning them, but I am definitely a happy Lions supporter with the last two seasons going well and we are looking forward to a 2017 Super Rugby season where we can hopefully go one better.
The Richest Sport Sponsorship deals in the World
April 3, 2016 - Currently in the local media it is being reported that EP Kings is in the process of securing an R80m sponsorship deal that would save the cash-strapped union from liquidation.
The news came out in the PE High Court on Tuesday where EP Rugby had to show why a provisional liquidation order against it granted two months ago should not be made permanent.
It emerged that a sum of R20m has already been paid into a trust account of the attorneys representing EP Rugby as an act of good faith.
The liquidation application was filed in January 2016 and initially saw 18 players claim that EP Rugby owed them about R1.3m in unpaid salaries. Subsequently a further 18 players joined the application as intervening creditors, claiming that EP Rugby were in breach of an arbitration ruling awarding them R18m in respect of salary arrears and other benefits.
The Lions themselves played the whole 2013 and 2014 seasons without a main sponsor, and then secured Emirates Airlines as main sponsor for the 2015 to 2019 seasons, in a deal believed to be worth about R150m or R30m per year. Since then they have played an attractive brand of rugby that also enabled them to bring on board a host of other associate sponsors
The budgets of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks for Super Rugby is rumoured to be worth around R80m per year, with the Lions around R57m, the Cheetahs around R27m and the Kings, who is currently run by SARU, somewhere between R20m and R30m.
Compare this to some of the Football sponsorships out there: Man United - $218m, Bayern Munich - $140m, Barcelona - $80m, and it shows you that Rugby sponsorship in South Africa is small change.
The Global sponsorship spending is estimated to be $60.2billion per year.
The biggest individual sponsorship deal is for baseball player Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins who secured a $325m contract for 13 years from 2015 to 2027.
Lions Super Rugby season takes a wobble
April 3, 2016 - I'm very dissappointed in my Lions team after the Crusaders loss on Friday. Not because we lost, but because we were thoroughly outplayed by a team playing clever rugby, and they are clearly a few levels above us. I was hopeful that 2016 would be a good Super Rugby season for the Lions but this game made me realise that even though we might qualify for the playoffs, we still don't quite have what it takes to win the competition.
What I mean by clever rugby by the Crusaders is the way that they make sure that they exit their 22 efficiently, unlike the Lions that get caught in our 22 way too often, and then the offload rugby that they played against us, something we do sometimes get right but the Crusaders gave us a masterclass in on Friday.
The Crusaders first try came within the 1st minute on Friday when Jantjies gathered a kick inside his 22, ran the ball but got caught just 10 metres further, the Lock Scott Barrett stole the ball at the ruck that got sent down the backline to the left where Mnisi rushed up in defense and tried to intercept the pass to Nadolo, who then had Crotty on his left and just Coetzee ahead of him. Coetzee bravely made the tackle on Nadolo but the pass to Crotty was made and the Saders went into an very early 5-0 lead.
The Lions did hit back just minutes later when Mnisi threw an inside switch pass to Combrinck on the Crusaders 10 metre line and Combrinck drew the last defender and then put Mapoe away for the try. Jantjies kicked the conversion and the Lions took a 7-5 lead.
The Lions then gifted the Crusaders a try when Faf de Klerk threw a long loopy skip pass to Skosan that was intercepted by McNicholl who scored in the right corner. Mo'unga converted to make it 12-7 for the Saders after 13 minutes.
Straight from the restart the Crusaders conceded a penalty and Jantjies kicked it to make it 12-10 for the visitors after 15 minutes.
Then some great offload rugby by the Crusaders when Read passed to Barrett who found Crockett who scored, the gap created by Julian Redelinghuys who rushed up out of the line. Mo'unga converted and the Crusaders took a commanding 19-10 lead after just 20 minutes.
Elton Jantjies then scored a great try when the Lions had a ruck close to the Crusaders line, Jantjies timed his run to the right brilliantly and when he received the pass from Faf had just the Crusaders Lock to beat to the corner. Jantjies converted his own try from the touchline to make it 19-17 for the visitors after 28 minutes.
The Lions then took the lead with a penalty from Jantjies from the halfway line after the Crusaders transgressed at a scrum, the score 20-19 after 32 minutes.
On the stroke of half time the Crusaders took back the lead with a penalty inside the Lions 22 to make the score 22-20 at the break.
Crotty then scored his second try on the night, when the Crusaders sent the ball down the backline from a line-out on the Lions 22, Crotty straightened and Mnisi missed the tackle, and then Crotty stepped Skosan in the last line of defense to score next to the upright. With the conversion good it put the Crusaders in a 29-20 lead with 30 minutes left in the match.
We then saw a few very poor passes from Faf de Klerk on the halfway line putting the Lions under pressure, followed up by a box-kick by him caught by McNicholl on his 10 metre line who then beat a few tackles before the ball went down the backline of the Crusaders where Nadolo beat the tackle of Mnisi and then put Crotty over for his 3rd try of the night. Mo'unga ckicked the conversion and the Crusaders now had a healthy lead of 36-20 with 28 minutes left.
Akker van der Merwe then scored a brilliant try, but watching the replay later confirmed my suspicion that the whole move started when Akker joined a ruck inside the Lions 22 from the side and kicked the ball forward, Nadolo picked the ball up but lost it in the tackle, where Mapoe picked it up and made some ground before passing to Coetzee who passed back to Akker who then ran in the 45 metre try down the right hand touchline. Jantjies kicked the difficult conversion to make it 36-27 for the Crusaders with 15 minutes left in the game.
The Crusaders then turned another Lions ball over at a ruck, just outside the Lions 22, the Saders hit left and the right and McNicholl was in space on the right, where Skosan made a bit of a blunder by defending in instead of trusting the inside defense, McNicholl then ran round him and passed inside to Drummond who scored the 6th Crusaders try of the night. The conversion was good and the Crusaders lead 43-27 with 13 minutes left to play.
Akker van der Merwe scored his second try when the Lions took a quick tap penalty 5 metres from the Crusaders line and he bashed over for the try, converted by Jantjies to make it 43-34 for the Crusaders with 10 to play.
The Crusaders defense then held for the next 10 minutes although they conceded a penalty on the hooter, and the Lions then opted to take the 3 points as it gave them a losing bonus point.
The Crusaders were well-deserved victors with 43-37, and Ryan Crotty was named man of the macth for his three tries.
Lions 37 (20) - Tries: Mapoe, Jantjies, Van der Merwe (2). Conversions: Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (3)
Crusaders 43 (22) - Tries: Crotty (3), McNicholl, Crockett, Drummond. Conversions: Mo'unga (5). Penalties: Mo'unga (1)
Big wins for Lions in Super Rugby warm-ups
February 6, 2016 - The Lions beat the Valke 62-17 and the Leopards 103-0 in Kempton on Saturday. In the second match the score might have been bigger but the referee ended the match 15 minutes early with a nearing thunderstorm making it unsafe for the players on the field.
The Valke started well in the 1st match and actually gave the Lions a good run for their money, scoring the first try in the macth and then also only traling 5-7 after 30 minutes into the game, but then the Lions scored two tries before halftime to take a 17-5 lead into the break.
In the second half the Lions took 15 minutes to score to make it 22-5, and straight after that try the Lions sent on a whole new team to play the remaining 25 minutes, and in this period the Lions scored another six tries to make the final score 62-17. In total the Lions cored 10 tries to the 3 from the Valke.
Sampie Mastriet left the field in this 25 minutes with what seems to be quite a serious injury, so his Super Rugby campaign might be in doubt.
The Lions that came up on the field with 25 minutes left then stayed on the field to take on the Leopards, but in this match the Leopards side was hopelessly outclassed, and after 30 minutes they were leading 35-0 and the Lions then replaced the whole side with a new team again, and they continued to run the Leopards ragged ending on 103-0 when the referee stopped the match 15 minutes or so early because of lightning making playing conditions dangerous. The Lions scored 15 tries to none in the second match.
After the two matches coach Johan Ackermann said that Jacques van Rooyen and Corne Fourie stood out as players on the day, but that he wanted all the players to play less as individuals and more as a team, but unfortunately the players probably saw it as trials and tried to play too much as individuals to make the Super Rugby squad.
He said he was pleased with the tight phases, although the Lions did lose a few line-outs on their own throw early against the Valke. He also thought that the Lions conceded too many penalties and that discipline needed a bit of work, saying that a team that concedes 10 penalties in a match would probably also lose in Super Rugby.
Players that caught my eye: JW Bell, Ruan Combrinck and Jacques Nel stood out in the first match, with the Loose trio of Whiteley, Brink and De Wit also combining well.
In the second team Jantjies, Janse van Rensburg, Kriel, Muller, Ferreira and van Rooyen stood out.
In the 3rd team they all looked good against very weak opposition.
Lions team 1: 15. JW Bell, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Jacques Nel, 12. Howard Mnisi, 11. Anthony Volmink, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 9. Ross Cronje, 8. Warren Whiteley, 7. Cyle Brink, 6. Steph de Wit, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Lourens Erasmus, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1. Dylan Smith
Lions team 2: 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Sampie Mastriet, 13. Stokkies Hanekom, 12. Rohan janse van Rensburg, 11. Cournall Skosan, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Fabian Booysen, 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Martin Muller, 4. Andries Ferreira, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1. Jacques van Rooyen
Lions team 3: 15 Ashlon Davids, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Gerdus vd Walt, 12 Jarryd Sage, 11 Selom Gavor, 10 Jaco vd Walt, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Robert Kruger, 6 Ruaan Lerm, 5 Bobby de Wee, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Akker vd Merwe, 1 Corne Fourie
Valke 17 (5) vs Lions 62 (17)
Valke - Tries: Olivier, Hendricks, Mamojele. Conversions: Aspeling
Lions - Tries: Whiteley, Volmink, Boshoff, Cronje, Van Rooyen (2), Combrinck (2), Ferreira, Hanekom. Conversions: Boshoff, Jantjies (5)
Leopards 0 (0) vs Lions 103 (47)
Lions - Tries: Ferreira, Kriel (3), Muller, Koch Marx, Gerdus vd Walt, Akker vd Merwe (2), Kruger, De Wee, Sage, Fourie, Ackermann, Smit. Conversions: Jantjies (4), Van der Walt (6), Davids (4)
Pirates Grand Challenge kicks off
April 9, 2015 - This weekend sees the start of the 2015 edition of the Lions Club league, known as the Pirates Grand Challenge.
The top nine rugby clubs of the Lions, Alberton, Pirates, Raiders, Randfontein, Roodepoort, Union, University of Johannesburg, Wanderers and Wits, and Pukke from the Leopards will battle it out over the coming months for the honour of being crowned the champion club of the Lions. The University of Johannesburg are the defending champions after they beat Raiders in the 2014 final.
The competition started 126 years ago in 1889, and the trophy was originally called the Imroth Trophy, but was renamed when Pirates won the competition three times in a row from 1890 to 1892.
Three clubs hold the record of five successive titles. Diggers achieved it twice (1895-1899 and 1958-1962). The other two clubs are Pirates (1890-1894) and Pukke (2002-2006), while Roodepoort won the competition eight times in ten years between 1985 and 1994. Diggers have been winners on 27 occasions and shared the trophy twice.
Northern Transvaal only became a rugby union in 1938, therefore the Pretoria based clubs were part of the Transvaal rugby union, and that is why we see the names of Pretoria based clubs under the winners until 1936. In fact, Pretoria won the very first competition in 1889.
The full list of fixtures for the weekend are:
Pirates Grand Challenge:
- Roodepoort vs. Raiders @ Roodepoort - 10 April 2015.
- Randfontein vs. Wanderers @ Randfontein (2nd, 3rd, u21 and u19) - 10 April 2015
- Pirates vs. Union @ Pirates - 10 April 2015 (1st Teams @ Emirates Airline Park, 11 April 2015 @ 13:30).
Senior Grand Challenge.
- JHB Police vs. Wes Wits @ JHB Police 10 April 2015.
- Germiston Simmer vs. Harlequins @ Simmer 10 April 2015.
- Diggers vs. Khoza @ Diggers 10 April 2015.
- Kagiso vs. Jabulani @ Kagiso 11 April 2015.
- Soweto vs. Midrand Stingers @ Soweto 11 April 2015.
- Alexandra vs. Eldoronians @ Alexandra 11 April 2015.
What does 2015 hold for the Lions?
March 3, 2015 - The Lions have had a tumultuous time in the Super Rugby competition to say the least. Historically one of the most competitive franchises, in 2012 they were relegated from the Super Rugby competition after finishing bottom for 3 years out of 5. They were replaced by the Southern Kings, but regained their spot the following year by beating them in a 2 round relegation series.
Even prior to that latest mishap the Johannesburg based Lions had never achieved much success within the Super Rugby franchise. An 8 year partnership between Lions and Cheetahs (to form Cats) from 1998-2006 was an unending nightmare the newly formed team won the wooden spoon for 6 of them.
However the humiliation of relegation left a bitter taste for Lions players and, eventually finished 2nd on the ladder behind eventual champions Western Province. Their 7-3 record was enough to earn a final at Newlands, narrowly losing 19-16.
So what does 2015 hold for the Lions? For one thing they have signed lock Andries Ferreira from Italian Pro12 side Zebre. It is hoped that Ferreira, a former Cheetahs player, has the physical presence to add to the Lions engine room. On the same day the club also announced it had extended contracts for young stars Harold Vorster and JP Du Preez until the end of 2016.
Relegation and the loss of major sponsors had put the Lions in a parlous financial position. In fact they played the 2014 Super Rugby season without a main sponsor and lacked the financial firepower to challenge in the league.
However, the addition of sponsorship from Emirates Airline for naming rights to the team (now the Emirates Lions) and their Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, will add significant revenue over a 5 year deal. The agreement was reached in December 2014 and, although figures have not been announced, club President Kevin de Klerk has described his optimism that it will significantly change the financial picture.
But this cash infusion won’t see the Lions out on a spending spree just yet. Under coach Johan Ackermann they have developed a policy of developing youth talent, supplemented by limited transfer activity when needed.
The Lions squad are a tight knit bunch, shown both through their performances on the pitch and by frequent sighting after games celebrating together in bars or casinos. To avoid the media spotlight on gambling you can be sure a few of them retreat to play their games online at yeboyescasino.
Overall it seems that 2015 could be a big year for the Lions. With stabilising finances, a talented squad and a respected manager 2015 is the year to make a statement of intent and move on from years of turmoil.
Lions make eight changes for Stormers clash
February 26, 2015 - The Lions made no fewer than eight changes to their starting line-up for Saturday's match against the Stormers at Ellis Park.
Many of the changes were predictable, like the whole new front-row after the Lions struggled in the scrums against the Sharks in Durban last weekend, and off course the return of Jaco Kriel after his injury, but one
has to wonder if it's not a bit of an overreaction from coach Johan Ackermann to make so many changes.
The Super Rugby season is a long one (16 matches from February to June) and a rotation policy with a squad system has to be used, but in my opinion one has to balance that with consistency in selection.
The Lions are under pressure after losing their opening two matches, and a further loss on Saturday will make supporters worry that we are heading for a worse season than the 12th place we achieved last year.
The draw is also not in our favour this season, after Saturday's match we head to New Zealand and Australia to play the Blues, Crusaders, Rebels and Reds, so it's a real possibility to be zero from seven when we return
to play the Bulls at Ellis Park on 4 April.
The changes are Vorster for Mnisi at Inside Centre, Mastriet for Skosan at Left Wing, Jantjies for Boshoff at Flyhalf, De Klerk for Cronje at Scrumhalf, Kriel for Minnie at Flank, Redelinghuys for Dreyer at Tighthead, Coetzee
for Marx at Hooker and Van der Merwe for Van Rooyen at Loosehead.
The match kicks off at 19:10 at Ellis Park on Saturday. The Stormers have won every single match between the two sides except for the match at Ellis Park last year which the Lions won 34-10
The full team:
15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Sampie Mastriet, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (c), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Martin Muller, 4. Franco Mostert, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Robbie Coetzee, 1. Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16. Armand van der Merwe, 17. Corne Fourie, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Derick Minnie, 21. Ross Cronje, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 23. Howard Mnisi
15. Cheslin Kolbe, 14. Johnny Kotze, 13. Juan de Jongh (vice-captain), 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Dillyn Leyds, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Nizaam Carr, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Jurie van Vuuren, 3. Vincent Koch, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16. Scarra Ntubeni, 17. Oli Kebble, 18. Frans Malherbe, 19. Manuel Carizza, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Louis Schreuder, 22. Kurt Coleman, 23. Huw Jones
Lions outclassed by Hurricanes
February 13, 2015 - The Hurricanes won their first opening match in Super Rugby since 2010 when they beat the Lions 22-8 at Ellis Park on Friday.
The Lions dominated the first half posession and territory but struggled to convert it into points. It was almost if the team wasn't patient enough and when the players turned the ball over at crucial stages in the match they became even less patient and more anxious.
Marnitz Boshoff missed three early penalties before the Hurricanes took a 3-0 lead when Barrett kicked a penalty after 20 minutes in the match.
The Lions then hit back with an excellent try by Ruan Combrinck, who powered his way through three defenders to score the 5-pointer, but Jantjies, who was on the field while Boshoff was off with a blood injury, then missed the conversion.
The Hurricanes then kicked another penalty to take back the lead, and then scored a try by Scrumhalf TJ Perenara, to make it 11-5.
On half time Boshoff kicked a penalty for the Lions to make it 11-8 at the break for the Hurricanes.
In the second half the Hurricanes turned the match on it's head when they started to dominate posession and territory, and the Lions made crucial mistakes that pinned them down in their own half.
Barrett added two more penalties and then on full time the Hurricanes won a tight head on the Lions try-line and Matt Proctor scored in the left corner to make the final score 22-8 for the Hurricanes.
Lions 8 (8): Tries: Ruan Combrinck. Penalty: Marnitz Boshoff.
Hurricanes 22 (11): Tries: TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor. Penalties: Beauden Barrett (4)
Lions up against the Hurricanes tonight
February 13, 2015 - At last game day is here and the long wait is over, tonight the Lions start their 2015 Super Rugby campaign against the Hurricanes at Ellis Park.
Even though the Lions finished in 12th place last year, they finished with 7 wins, their most ever in Super Rugby, and obviously they would like to improve on that this year.
It won't be easy, as many people believe that in a 3 year cycle your 2nd year is often worse than the first year. The Lions did secure a 5-year sponsorship deal with Emirates, bringing in much needed cash, but this has not
translated in a shopping spree for them, as they are basically playing with much the same squad as the 2014 season, except for Howard Mnisi, who joined the Lions before the 2014 Currie Cup season, and he will make his
debut for the Lions in Super Rugby tonight at Inside Centre.
Players missing from last year's squad are Alwyn Hollenbach (With the Vodacom Cup side), Charles Marais (EP Kings), Chrysander Botha (Exeter Chiefs), Coenie van Wyk (Cheetahs), Deon van Rensburg (retired), Franco van der Merwe (Ulster), JW Jonker (Cheetahs),
Mark Pretorius (with Vodacom Cup side), Rudi Mathee (with Pumas), Stefan Watermeyer (injured), Willie Britz (Cheetahs) and Willie Wepener (with Vodacom Cup side).
However, the Lions team is fairly settled, as 13 of the players in tonight's starting XV also started in the Currie Cup final against WP in October last year, with just Malcolm Marx at Hooker and Andries Coetzee at Fullback new
in the starting XV tonight.
The Hurricanes are on a 5 game winning streak agains the Lions, with the last win for the Lions a big one in 2007 when they won 30-7 at Ellis Park. Key tonight will be home-ground advantage for the Lions, where the altitude
might be their ally, depending on how fast they can make the game. They also need to make sure that they starve the opposition backline from ball to attack with, and also when they kick for touch those kicks need to go into the stand
to prevent quick line-outs by the Hurricanes.
Their tight phases should be good, they had the best scrum in Super Rugby in 2014 and will hopefully continue the good work this year, and hopefully this will also convince the Bok coach to look at the Lions props for higher honours.
The loose forwards are excellent, I don't think there is a better loose-trio in SA Rugby, and hopefully they get to entertain us again tonight!
Lions: 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Howard Mnisi, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 9. Ross Cronje, 8. Warren Whiteley (c), 7. Derick Minnie, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Martin Muller, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 2. Malcolm Marx, 1. Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16. Armand van der Merwe, 17. Corne Fourie, 18. Jacques van Rooyen, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Warwick Tecklenburg, 21. Faf de Klerk, 22. Elton Jantjies, 23. Stokkies Hanekom
Hurricanes: 15. Jason Woodward:, 14. Cory Jane, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Rey Lee-Lo, 11. Julian Savea, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. TJ Perenara, 8. Blade Thomson, 7. Ardie Savea, 6. Brad Shields, 5. James Broadhurst, 4. Mark Abbott, 3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16. Brayden Mitchell, 17. Reggie Goodes, 18. Chris Eves, 19. Callum Gibbins, 20. Victor Vito, 21. Chris Smylie, 22. James Marshall, 23. Matt Procto
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
AR1: Andrew Lees
AR2: Pro Legoete
TMO: Johan Greeff
Kickoff at 19:10 at Ellis Park on Friday 13 February 2015
Lions announce 2015 Super Rugby squad
February 6, 2015 - The Lions announced their Super Rugby squad for the 2015 season on Friday and there were just a couple of surprises.
Most notable was that Alwyn Hollenbach didn't make the squad, this after being the number one Inside Centre for most of the six seasons since making his Lions debut in 2009. The name of Stefan Watermeyer was also
missing, but this was because he injured a hamstring in the warmup match in Potchefstroom last weekend and was sent back to Nelspruit for rehab. Two of the players that joined the Lions from the Bulls, Rohan janse van Rensburg and Lohan Jacobs
also didn't make the squad.
Kwagga Smith is also missing, but this is because he is on duty with the Blitsbokke, their last tournament of the series concludes in England on 17 May which means Kwagga might be available for the last 3 matches for the Lions in the pool
stages, but then again the youngsters picked as loose forwards, De Witt and Lerm are more than capable players.
The only position where the squad does look thin is at Lock, where Lusaseni is still recovering from injury, and therefore Robert Kruger, who is really a loose forward, made the squad, probably as cover at lock.
The Full squad is:
Fullbacks: Andries Coetzee
Wings: Ruan Combrinck, Sampie Mastriet, Mark Richards, Courtnall Skosan, Anthony Volmink
Centres: Stokkies Hanekom, Lionel Mapoe, Howard Mnisi, Harold Vorster
Flyhalves: Marnitz Boshoff, Elton Jantjies, Jaco van der Walt
Scrumhalves: Ross Cronje, Faf de Klerk
Loose Forwards: Steph de Witt, Jaco Kriel, Ruaan Lerm, Derick Minnie, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley (captain)
Locks: Robert Kruger, MB Lusaseni, Franco Mostert, Martin Muller
Hookers: Robbie Coetzee, Malcolm Marx, Armand van der Merwe
Props: Ruan Dreyer, Corne Fourie, Julian Redelinghuys, Schalk van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen
The lions finished 12th of the 15 teams in 2014, but the 7 wins from 16 matches was also their best result ever as a franchise, and obviously the team would like to do a bit better than that in 2015, keeping in mind that
the Chiefs had just 1 more win than the Lions and finished 5th on the log in 2015. The key will be to try and win all 8 their home matches at Ellis Park, and then to try and win some of their away matches or at least get
losing bonus points when they do lose.
The Emirates Lions kick off their 2015 Super Rugby campaign on Friday, 13th February 2015, when they take on the Hurricanes of Wellington, New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park.
Emirates and Lions in a 5 year sponsorship deal
December 11, 2014 - Emirates and the Lions announced a five-year sponsorship agreement on Thursday.
This means that the Lions will now become the Emirates Lions, with the "Fly Emirates" logo on their jerseys, while Ellis Park was also renamed Emirates Airline Park. The deal is believed to be worth in the region of R150m for the Lions
over the next 5 years.
“Emirates is a strong champion of rugby worldwide and South Africa is one of the top rugby playing nations with very passionate supporters. We are therefore delighted to have the opportunity to sponsor one of the country’s most
popular and established teams. It’s the first major sponsorship by Emirates of a South African team, and this will certainly raise the visibility of the Emirates brand not just here, but also in our key markets of
New Zealand and Australia where the Super Rugby competition is played, and a number of other markets in which the games are televised,” said Mr Abbas, the Emirates Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations for Latin America, Southern and Central Africa.
“Our new association with the Lions enables us to be part of Ellis Park, which is an historical and famous venue in the country, most notably for hosting the Rugby World Cup final in 1995 which South Africa won.
This was the same year in which Emirates first started operations to the country, and today we enable trade and provide connections for South Africans from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg to Dubai and beyond to our network
of more than 140 destinations around the world,” he added.
“At the Golden Lions Rugby Union we pride ourselves on growth and performance. We are thus thrilled to partner with Emirates – a world-leader in its field who is constantly looking to expand and develop.
We are tremendously grateful to Emirates for their support and belief. It is wonderful to have financial stability, as a result of the support from this international, iconic brand, over the next five years,” said Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli.
“We are looking forward to working closely together in not only developing rugby at grassroots level in both South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, but also expanding the game of rugby across the globe.
As 2015 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Springboks’ 1995 Rugby World Cup win at Ellis Park, it is exciting for us to have secured Emirates as a stadium sponsor from next year.
We know that we will share many more happy memories, alongside Emirates, at this hallowed ground,” he added.
The Emirates Lions kick off their 2015 Super Rugby campaign on Friday, 13th February 2015, when they take on the Hurricanes of New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park.
Currie Cup Final Preview
October 19, 2014 - Western Province and the Lions have won their respective semi-finals at home and both teams have progressed to the biggest match in South African domestic rugby, the Currie Cup Final.
Western Province will play host to the Lions by virtue of the fact that they finished top of the log, a reasonably big advantage as in the past the home side won the Final 30 out of 53 times, or 57% of the time,
but looking at the last 10 Finals the home side won 6 for a 60% win for the home side. In the last two finals the visiting side won, showing that it's not impossible to win the Currie Cup away from home.
The very first Currie Cup Final was played in 1939, and it only became an annual event from 1968 onwards. Saturday will see the 54th Currie Cup Final in history. WP and the Lions are second and third most successful teams in Currie Cup Finals,
with WP playing in 24, winning 11, and sharing 2, and the Lions playing in 19, winning 8 and sharing 1. The Blue Bulls have played in 31 Finals, winning 19 and sharing 4, but they last played (and won) in a Final in 2009.
The two teams have only played each other in 4 previous finals, with the last one 28 years ago in 1986! In the 4 finals both teams won twice, even though 3 of them were played in Cape Town.
Finals history between WP and the Lions:
1939 Transvaal beat Western Province 17 - 6 in Cape Town (This was the very first final in history)
1947 Western Province beat Transvaal 16 - 12 Cape Town
1950 Transvaal beat Western Province 22 - 11 Johannesburg
1986 Western Province beat Transvaal 22 - 9 Cape Town
2014 Super Rugby season review
July 15, 2014 - For the first time in probably forever it is a pleasure to take the past Super Rugby season in review.
What makes it a pleasure is the fact that the Lions won 7 matches, a new record for the Franchise, going 2 better than the 5 victories in the 2007 season. What is remarkable about the 7 victories is that it equals the victories by the Bulls and the Stormers, and it is just 1 from the 8 that the Chiefs and Highlanders achieved to finish 5th and 6th on the log to qualify for the playoffs.
So after no-one gave the Lions any hope for the 2014 season, we did very well and if we can build on this performance, we could be a serious challenge for a top 6 spot next year.
We scored more tries than the Sharks, Bulls and Stormers in the competition, and we managed to beat the Bulls and the Stormers for the first time in the history of Super Rugby.
We won 6 of our 8 Home games at Ellis Park, and probably would like to do better than the 1 away win, the 21-20 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Only 4 teams conceded more tries than us, which highlight the fact that we should perhaps focus a little bit more on defense, and we only scored 3 bonus points, the least of all the teams in the competition, which also shows that we could try for the 4 try bonus point more often and should try to keep within 7 points when we lose to get a losing bonus point.
We finished well with three home victories, and should try and take that form into the Currie Cup, which starts on 9 August for us when we play the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park.
Our scrums deserves a mention, before our last match we had a 91% success rate, which was the highest in the competition, and with our front row having proved themselves as the best against their South African, New Zealand and Australian competition, it's hard to understand why they are still waiting for higher honors.
Warren Whiteley was epic at Number Eight the whole season, he is a clever rugby player that attacks the space and has the ability to put team mates in space with the ball, and one would like to see him in a Bok jersey as well. He was rated as joint number 12 in the competition for try assists, the highest ranking for a Lions player, with Willie le Roux from the Cheetahs ranked 11th with one more try assist than Warren. Warren made 168 tackles in the season to be placed 4th overall in Super Rugby, with Jaco Kriel the 2nd best Lion with 120 tackles and 30th overall. Whiteley also won the most line-out ball for the Lions (46), placing him 10th overall, with Franco Mostert 12th overall with 41 line-out takes. Whiteley also stole the most line-outs (8) for the Lions, to be placed 3rd in the competition.
Warwick Tecklenburg also deserves a mention, making 100 tackles in the competition to be the 3rd placed Lion and 58th overall.
Marnitz Boshoff kicked the most penalty goals (43) in the competition, and only missed 6 penalties that he attempted. He kicked 18 conversions for 9th place in the competition, missing only 3, so he got 61 from 70 kicks for a 87.1%, which was excellent. He was also the number one Drop Goal kicker in the competition, getting 8 over, 5 more than the 2nd place Jacques-Louis Potgieter.
Our best placed player in the metres run category was Jaco Kriel with 491 metres, but that places him 42 overall, with Coenie van Wyk 53rd overall on 422 metres, perhaps a category that our team can improve on.
Jaco Kriel was also our best player in the Clean breaks category with 11 clean breaks, placing him 15th overall, with Faf de Klerk the 2nd best Lion 47th overall with 7.
In the carries category Jaco Kriel was once again our star player with 105 carries, placing him 51st overall, with Warren Whiteley 2nd best Lions player with 99 carries 62nd overall.
Kriel also won the most turnovers (16) for the Lions, placing him 6th overall in the competition, with Stefan Watermeyer and Warren Whiteley on 11 steals joint 23rd for the Lions
Lastly I want to congratulate the coaching staff, in particular Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin, for making this the best Super Rugby season ever for the Lions, and hopefully we can better it in 2015!
Let's be realistic
May 21, 2014 - I'm picking up a lot of negativity from fellow Lions supporters in the last few weeks and I think it's time to take a step back and look at our season so far.
Granted we are on a six match losing streak and currently 14th on the log, so not the best position to be in, but we are still on four wins for the season and we have two more log points than what the Kings got last year, and we still have four matches to play.
Lets look how our four wins compare to other seasons:
2012 - 3 wins
2011 - 2 wins and a draw
2010 - 0 wins
2009 - 4 wins
2008 - 2 wins and a draw
2007 - 5 wins
2006 - 2 wins and a draw
1997 - 5 wins and a draw
1996 - 3 wins
So we are just one win away from our best result ever in this competition, and this after a year out of Super Rugby and losing a number of top players during last year, and having to play the whole season this year without a title sponsor.
All the damage that was done to the team, brand and Franchise over the last 8 or more years can not be undone in a single season, it will have to be a process, and judging by the results we are making great strides towards that goal.
In the short term I would love to see the team take two wins from the remaining four matches, as that will then be the teams best ever performance in Super Rugby history, and that would be remarkable given all the obstacles mentioned.
In the longer term, we need to sort out the main title sponsor issue, as that will give us additional finances to contract better players in the positions where we need them, as well as more depth in positions where we don't have depth at the moment.
Halfway into the season
Apr 9, 2014 - After Saturday's match against the Sharks we will be exactly halfway into the Super Rugby season, i.e. 8 of the 16 matches completed.
A win will give us 5 wins from 8, while a loss will make it 4 wins from 8, which is still 50% for the season and one win better than what the Kings did all season last year.
At the start of the season no one gave the Lions a chance and to stand on 4 wins from 7 matches is certainly better than what most people expected, even the die-hard Lions fans!
So one must congratulate the team and the coaches as well as the management team with the excellent results so far.
Things will get a little tricky from here, as we play the Sharks on Saturday, and they are topping the Super Rugby log currently, so will be favourites to win the match, and then we play the Stormers at Newlands, a team that we've never been able to beat until we played them at Ellis Park this year, and then it's the dreaded tour, where we play the Chiefs, Highlanders, Waratahs and Force, before we host the Bulls at the end of May.
The whole of June Super Rugby takes a break, and in July we play the Rebels and the Cheetahs at Ellis Park.
The optomist in me says we have a 50% chance of beating the Stormers at Newlands, and then a chance of taking at least 1 win from the overseas trip, and then we should have a chance of winning at least 2 of the 3 home games, which would see us end on 8 wins from the 16 matches, not quite enough to end in the top 6, but a spectacular season for the Lions and the fans who are used to a team that finishes at the bottom of the log.
Now for the Bulls!
Feb 26, 2014 - What a start for the Lions in the 2014 Super Rugby season, two from two!
The Lions last won two matches in a row in Super Rugby in the 2007 season, which is 7 years ago, a very embarrassing stat. This weekend we play the Bulls at Loftus, and it's almost as if we can
be considered as the favourites for the match, as the Bulls started their season with two losses, against the Sharks and the Cheetahs, and seem to be heading for a difficult season after losing
a number of senior players since they finished second on last year's Super Rugby log.
The key in the match against the Bulls will be to stick to our game-plan that worked so well against the Cheetahs and the Stormers, and not to play as individuals but as a team.
Marnitz Boshoff might have kicked most of the points in the two wins, but it was because the team played as a team that we were in a position for him to kick the penalties and drop goals that
let us win the two matches.
Derick Minnie fractured a cheekbone against the Stormers, so he will be out for between four and six weeks, and that should be the only change in the starting XV, with
Warwick Tecklenburg his likely replacement, and then Willie Britz to be on the bench as loose forward cover.
Lions vs Bulls: (Likely team:)
15. Chrysander Botha, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 13. Stefan Watermeyer, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. Ruan Combrinck, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (c), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Franco Mostert, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Robbie Coetzee, 1. Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16. Willie Wepener, 17. Jacques van Rooyen, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. MB Lusaseni, 20. Willie Britz, 21. Ross Cronje, 22. JW Jonker, 23. Coenie van Wyk
It's not going to be easy for the Lions
Feb 11, 2014 - The Lions are on the eve of their 2014 Super Rugby season, which sees them travel to Bloemfontein to play the Cheetahs on Saturday.
The Cheetahs had a spectacular season in 2013, finishing 6th on the log and qualifying for the play-offs, where they narrowly lost to eventual losing finalists the Brumbies, and they
certainly aim to do even better this year.
The Lions were hurt severely by the exclusion from Super Rugby in 2013, and it's a miracle that they even managed to win promotion back to Super Rugby. Players left in droves
when the Lions lost their Super Rugby status, and the big loss to the Sharks on Friday (57-14) demonstrated the lack of depth at the union.
Financially it's also still a struggle, as with just four days to go until kickoff, the Lions are still without a main sponsor for Super Rugby.
So yes, it's not going to be easy for the Lions. Basically we are starting over, and no one is expecting us to do anything better than 15th on the log and 5th in South Africa.
But we can do better. Rugby can be a bit unpredictable sometimes and the Lions certainly have a lot of talent in the squad, even though it can't compare to the squad of the Sharks for instance.
A good showing against the Cheetahs this weekend and then the Stormers the weekend after might just get the Lions players to believe that they can be better in 2014 than what
everyone in the country expect.
The Lions will name their team for the Cheetahs clash on Thursday, after naming their 2014 Super Rugby squad on Tuesday:
Fullbacks: Chrysander Botha, Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Coenie van Wyk
Wings: Deon Helberg, Courtnall Skosan, Deon van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink
Centres: Alwyn Hollenbach, JW Jonker, Lionel Mapoe, Stefan Watermeyer
Flyhalves: Marnitz Boshoff, Elton Jantjies
Scrumhalves: Michael Bondesio, Francois de Klerk
Loose Forwards: Willie Britz, Jaco Kriel, Derick Minnie, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley (c)
Locks: Luvuyiso Lusaseni, Franco Mostert, Martin Muller, Franco van der Merwe
Hookers: Robbie Coetzee, Malcolm Marx, Willie Wepener
Props: Ruan Dreyer, Corne Fourie, Julian Redelinghuys, Schalk van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen
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