Pirates unveil new kit and welcome Leadhome as title sponsor
April 5, 2019 - Leading hybrid real estate agency, Leadhome, together with Pirates Rugby Club, celebrated the unveiling and official handover of the new Leadhome Pirates Rugby Jersey for the 2019 season at the Kick-Off hospitably box at Emirates Airline Park on Friday, 5 April 2019.
This follows Leadhome’s announcement of its title sponsorship of Pirates Rugby Club, one of Johannesburg’s oldest rugby establishments, in February this year. In line with Leadhome’s community upliftment strategy, the sponsorship aims to assist the Club to build its youth and female player development, while also continuing with its outreach programmes and overriding growth strategy.
The kit features the traditional red and navy colours of the 130-year-old club where Leadhome takes pride of place on the front of the jersey. Marcel du Toit, CEO, Leadhome says that sponsorship of Pirates Rugby Club is a natural fit for Leadhome. “Sport has always brought people together across cultural and social frontiers as a great unifier which brings about genuine social cohesion and development within communities. Open to all members of the public, Pirates embraces all South Africans and this openness and transparency are core values shared with Leadhome.”
Chairman of Pirates Rugby Club, Brad Guymer, says the jersey marks the start of a new era at the club as it welcomes Leadhome to the Pirates family as its official sponsor. “We are very excited to have a community-based business like Leadhome join the Pirates family and can’t wait to build on the many achievements we’ve enjoyed to date. Leadhome shares the same values as Pirates in terms of being relevant in the communities we operate in and providing a home where great memories are made.”
Pirates has the biggest youth rugby programme within the Golden Lions territory. With over 300 junior players and a further 80 senior boys, Pirates draws players from other provinces and a variety of schools. Two years ago, Pirates launched its first women’s rugby team and also participates in a variety of community outreach programmes.
Leadhome Marketing Director, Wendy Case, says Pirates’ proud history and spirit of comradery are worthy of recognition and support. “Our sponsorship is a nod to the incredible role Pirates Ruby Club plays in its community and the people within that community. We’re delighted to help build on its long history of sporting excellence and community spirit.”
2019 Lions Super Rugby Preview
January 09, 2019 - With just over two weeks to go until our first warmup match against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday 26 January, it's time to preview our 2019 Super Rugby season.
We've lost the services of Ruan Dreyer, Corne Fourie, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert and Jacques van Rooyen.
Jaco Kriel was injured for the whole of the 2018 Super Rugby season, so his loss will not really have an impact, although it must be said that he is one of the most talented fetchers of all time and certainly in the top 5 of all time greats that played for the Lions, so he will be missed.
Losing Ruan Dreyer at Tighthead and Franco Mostert at Lock will probably have the biggest impact of the players that left. Both were regular starters in the 2018 season and they will leave a gap that is going to be difficult to fill.
At Tighthead the candidates to take over from Ruan Dreyer are Jacobie Adriaanse, Johannes Jonker and loan player from WP, Carlu Sadie. This is an extremely important position in rugby, if your Tighthead struggles, your scrum will struggle and you will concede penalties, giving momentum to your opponent and obviously not getting momentum yourself.
At lock we will probably have Marvin Orie, Lourens Erasmus and Rhyno Herbst to pick from, while Stephan Lewies is also on loan from the Sharks and available for selection. It's unclear at this stage if Robert Kruger and Andries Ferreira will be available, and Lourens Erasmus is injured and will only be available later in the competition, which means that Orie and Lewies will probably be the likely starters.
The loss of Jacques van Rooyen at loosehead is also a big one, he was more than solid for the Lions over a number of years, and I was surprised that he never got a look-in for higher honours, but we do have more than capable players at Loosehead in Dylan Smith, Danie Mienie and Sti Sithole to keep this position covered.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg is also a big loss, he is a hugely talented player, but for some reason that's difficult to explain, he wasn't a regular starter at Inside Centre for us in 2018 after he recovered from his injury. I guess it can be said that if he can work on his distribution and defence, he will walk into any team.
So in summary I think we might be at risk at Tighthead, but then again there is also the opportunity for players to take the step up and make the position theirs. It will also be interesting to see which of the junior Lions can make the step-up to Super Rugby if given the chance, and here we can keep an eye on players like Stephen Bashera (Prop), Driaan Bester (Lock), Wandisile Simelane (Centre), Tyrone Green (Wing), Jan-Louis la Grange (Fullback), Gianni Lombard (Fullback), Manual Rass (Centre) and HP van Schoor (Hooker).
Coaching staff *
It's a big positive that the coaching staff from last season remain in place for 2019, so this will certainly bring continuity and they can show that they have learnt and grown since last year this time.
Head Coach: Swys de Bruin
Forward Coach: Philip Lemmer
Backline Coach: Neil de Bruin
Defence Coach: Joey Mongalo
Conditioning: Ivan van Rooyen
* In the original article I had wrongly indicated Joey Mongalo as the Backline Coach. He is the Defence Coach and Neil de Bruin is the Backline Coach.
We have five players on the injury list at the moment:
Lourens Erasmus and
Of the five, only Lourens Erasmus will not be available to play at the beginning of February.
The structure of the competition will once again allow the best South African team to have a fairly easy path to the final. Obviously this isn't fair or ideal, and I'm surprised that the competition format was kept the same for at least the next two years, as the dwindling crowds showed that an urgent change was needed in my opinion.
The aim is thus to make sure that you top the South African conference, and you are then likely to have a home semi-final and away final to the top New Zealand side, unless you can keep your losses to a minimum and top the overall log to get a home final. The Jaguares and Sharks are likely to be the biggest competition for the top of the SA conference.
We are scheduled to play just two warmup matches:
26 January 2019 vs Bulls at Loftus, kickoff at 14:00
3 February 2019 vs Sharks in Cape Town, kickoff at 14:00
Our 1st regular match is on 16 February 2019 vs the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, kickoff at 23:40 SA Time, and our 1st home game is on 2 March 2019 vs the Bulls, kickoff at 15:05.
Likely 2019 Squad
The 2019 Super Rugby squad is likely to be: (Alphabetical)
Loosehead Props: Mienie, Sithole, Smith
Tighthead Props: Adriaanse, Jonker, Sadie
Hookers: Coetzee, Jansen, Marx
Locks: Erasmus, Ferreira, Herbst, Kruger, Lewies, Orie
Flankers: Brink, De Villiers, Massyn, Schoeman, Smith, Venter
Number 8: Dayimani, Whiteley (Capt)
Scrumhalf: Cronje, Groom, Smit
Flyhalf: Jantjies, Reynolds
Centres: Mapoe, Mnisi, Simelane, Vorster
Wings: Combrinck, Dyantyi, Skosan, Tambwe
Fullback: Coetzee, Mahuza
Lions need to return to winning ways
May 16, 2018 - For the first time since the 2015 Super Rugby season, the Lions lost three matches in a row. Saturday they are back at Ellis Park and need a win desperately.
The 2016 and 2017 Super Rugby seasons were massively successful for the Lions, where the team lost a handful of matches in the regular season (just one in 2017) and qualified for the final in both years, unfortunately falling at the final hurdle both times.
It's as if these two good seasons spoilt the Lions fans, as all of a sudden, many fans are starting to question if Swys de Bruin was the right choice to take the Lions forward after the departure of Johan Ackermann, and some fans even going so far as to say that we are back where we were in 2012.
I agree that we should have done better than the 6 wins from 12 matches up to this point, but I still believe that Swys is the right man for the job, and that the team will win the South African conference and qualify to play a quarter-final at home. The two losses against the Blues and Reds, who are both bottom dwellers on the current log, were costly slip-ups, and the one win from four overseas also doesn't make for good reading, but the team is now back in South Africa, and with a seven point lead in the conference, still have the luxury of controlling their own destiny.
The Brumbies are currently 2nd last on the log, and the Lions must make very sure that they take 5 points from this match. In order to do this they need to fix the small things that hampered the team up to now. Defense is a big head-ache, and surely it will be a focus point this week in the lead-up to Saturday's match. In the match against the Highlanders, the opponents scored most of their five tries from turnovers, so I think we should also try and look after our ball a bit better. If you don't turn the ball over, the opponents can't score tries!
The last thing that is concerning, is that the backline hasn't been firing this year like it did in the previous two seasons. It will help a lot if Swys could identify the cause of this and rectify it before Saturday.
Lions hold on for win over the Sharks at home
February 17, 2018 - In a match where the outcome was in the balance right up to the final whistle, the Lions managed to hold the Sharks out in the last 10 minutes with determined defence to clinch a win and get their Super Rugby campaign off to a winning start.
The Sharks drew first blood in the match when they had an attacking line-out in the Lions 22 and when the ball came down the backline, Flyhalf Robert du Preez had an easy run in under the sticks. He kicked the easy conversion to put the Sharks in a 7-0 lead after just 7 minutes in the match.
The Lions then also scored from an attacking line-out when the ball went down the backline and Lionel Mapoe broke a tackle and scored, Jantjies converted and the score was 7-7.
Then some brilliant play from winger Aphiwe Dyantyi, who got the ball in space on the left sideline from Warren Whiteley. Whiteley again showed his immense value as a ball distributor in this move as he got the ball away to the Wing with quick hands in the tackle, and with only Robert du Preez in front of Dyantyi, he kicked a grubber that he regathered and scored. Jantjies kicked the conversion from the sideline to put the Lions in a 14-7 lead with 24 minutes gone.
Towards the end of the first half the Sharks had an opportunity to score but then conceded a penalty on their own scrum feed 5 metres from the Lions try-line and so the Lions were leading 14-7 at the break.
In the second half the Sharks were quick out of the blocks with a try in the first minute, when winger Nkosi with a lot of work to do, dotted down in the right corner. Robert du Preez missed the difficult conversion, so the Lions lead was cut to 14-12.
Ten minutes into the second half the Lions conceded a scrum penalty on their own 10 metre line and the Sharks went for the poles but missed it to the right.
Andries Coetzee then had a brilliant break down the left and when the ball went down the backline from the ruck 5 metres from the Sharks line, Lionel Mapoe took the outside gap to score his second try. Jantjies converted and it was 21-12 for the Lions with 25 minutes to play.
Andries Coetzee then knocked the sharks kickoff in his own 22, and this set up a scrum for the Sharks deep in the Lions territory. The Sharks played left and set up a ruck, and then employed a skip-pass to Mapimpi out wide who could have walked over for the try. Du Preez converted and once again the Lions lead was cut to just 21-19 with 23 minutues to play
Kwagga Smith then took a quick tap penalty close to the Sharks try-line and scored with Jantjies missing the conversion to make it 26-19 for the Lions with 21 minutes left.
Five minutes later the Sharks conceded a scrum penalty on their own feed just inside their half and Jantjies went for poles but the kick was just short.
With 8 minutes to go the Sharks conceded another penalty just outside their 22, and again Jantjies missed it.
The Sharks then camped in the Lions 22 for the remainder of the match but determined defence held them out and the Lions won the game 26-19. In this period Hacjivah Dayimani affected a crucial turnover at a ruck that was huge in the context of the game.
Aphiwe Dyantyi was named man of the match while Malcolm Marx was voted supporters Man of the match.
Lions: 26 (14)
Tries: Mapoe (2), Dyantyi, Kwagga
Conversions: Jantjies (3)
Sharks: 19 (7)
Tries: Robert du Preez, Nkosi, Mapimpi
Conversions: Robert du Preez (2)
What's in store for the Lions in Super Rugby in 2018?
January 24, 2018 - I read a lot of comments from Lions supporters stating that they are worried about the future of the Lions, and honestly I can't understand where this worry comes from.
We've just experienced the best two years in Super Rugby in our history, and considering that only three players that were part of the 23-man squad that played in the Super Rugby final in August 2017 left the Lions, I believe that we should have another great year in 2018.
The three players that won't be available for us in the 2018 Super Rugby campaign are Ruan Ackermann, Akker van der Merwe and Faf de Klerk. Surely we will miss all three, but one of the things that I've learnt as a rugby supporter is that it's a given that players won't stay with your team forever, sooner or later they will leave, and often this gives another junior player the opportunity to step into his place and perhaps do even better than the player that left!
We've had a change of coach as well, but Swys de Bruin was the assistant coach in the time that Johan Ackermann was so successful at the Lions, and now he gets the opportunity to show that he also deserved some of the credit for the team's good showing over the past two years.
There are some injury worries, Jaco Kriel will miss the first month or so of the competition, but I believe a player like Kwagga Smith will slot nicely into the number 6 jersey for now, and there are a few other very capable loosies that will challenge for a spot in the team, like Hacjivah Dayimani, Marnus Schoeman, Pikkie de Villiers, Len Massyn and James Venter.
Courtnall Skosan picked up a knee injury in training on Monday that will see him miss the entire Super Rugby season, while Ruan Combrinck is also only expected to return from his injury in March, but again we have youngsters like Gianni Lombard, Madosh Tambwe, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Wandisile Simelane to make the step up, and coach Swys could even consider a natural footballer like Hacjivah on the wing.
Some good news is that captain Warren Whiteley is over his injury and have played in a couple of matches for his Japanese club in December and January, and should be fully fit to be back as captain and number 8.
This Saturday the Lions will play the Bulls in a pre-season friendly at Ellis Park, entrance is free and the kick-off is at 15:00. Both the Lions and the Bulls opted to pick mostly players that won't be certain starters in Super Rugby, but it gives these players a great opportunity to show what they bring to the table.
Lions: 15 Gianni Lombard; 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Manny Rass, 12 Howard Mnisi (c), 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi; 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Marco Janse van Vuren; 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 PJ Steenkamp, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Corné Fourie, 1 Sti Sithole: Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Cohen Kiewit, 18 Jaco Willemse, 19 Pikkie de Villiers, 20 James Venter, 21 Len Massyn, 22 Christiaan Meyer, 23 Shaun Reynolds, 24 Louritz van der Schyff, 25 Wandisile Simelane.
Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Irvin Ali, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Heino Bezuidenhout, 11 Andell Loubser, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Boom Prinsloo (captain), 7 Rickert Korff, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Abongile Nonkontwana, 4 Ewan Coetzee, 3 Matthys Basson, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Dewald Maritz Replacements: 16 Nqoba Mxoli, 17 John-Roy Jenkinson, 18 Simphiwe Matanzima, 19 Thomas Meyer, 20 Pieter Diergaardt, 21 Adre Smit, 22 Oderich Mouton, 23 Vaughen Isaacs, 24 Lian du Toit, 25 Garrick Matthews, 26 Jerome Bossr, 27 Christiaan Strydom, 28 Earll Douwrie, 29 Gareth Heidtmann
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.Australia
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 2016 Currie Cup 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 in 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.
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.
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.