Lions are doomed!

Hein Diemont

The Lions’ utter dominance of Super Rugby’s SA Group has come as no great surprise, given their success in 2016.

Over the past two seasons, the Lions have lost a total of five games – two of which came with them resting the first-choice team for a trip to Argentina. Their seat at the table with the title contenders is certainly well deserved, but will they be there at the end to enjoy the dessert?

The answer is… things don’t end well for the Lions in 2017.

They’ve had an easier path this season, skipping the New Zealand sides. That didn’t work out very well for the 2016 Stormers who also topped their conference only to be humiliated by a Kiwi team (the Chiefs) at the first time of asking.

The Lions have not been properly tested. They can only be less prepared than they were last year to face one of New Zealand’s contenders in the playoffs, none more so than the Crusaders who – if they finish top of the pile – are likely to host the final.

For the Lions, this means travelling to Christchurch. In 20 years of Super Rugby, no SA side has won a playoff game in New Zealand. Since 2006, the Crusaders have reached four Super Rugby finals, winning both of those played at home. They have an impeccable record in front of their fans and the South Africans will have little to no chance of upsetting them at their fortress.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee relied heavily on Lions personnel in June and, while it would have been a huge honour for the likes of Andries Coetzee and Courtnall Skosan to establish themselves as Bok regulars, the Lions may feel the physical repercussions of this as the increased workload takes its toll.

Inspirational skipper, Warren Whiteley has already cried off and will miss the rest of the competition – a major blow to the Lions’ chances.

There has also been much made of coach Johan Ackermann leaving the Lions. The man in charge has created a family atmosphere at the union and he will be sorely missed. The general opinion is that the Lions could be galvanised in their efforts to give the big man a worthy send-off. But there are numerous examples in sport where these extra emotions hamper, rather than inspire.

Swys de Bruin has been appointed as his successor, but there is still some uncertainty about the future. These factors are capable of upsetting the harmony and focus within the team at a time when there should be only one clear goal and focus.

The Lions have been a joy to watch. They’ve played with pride, passion and excitement. The players have deserved recognition at higher levels and the effort of the coaching staff has rightly been highly praised.

However, thrilling the locals on a weekly basis is one thing; winning a tight Super Rugby final, especially one in New Zealand, is quite another.

The men from Johannesburg are doomed to come up short yet again.

Hein Diemont is a passionate couch critic who screams, cheers and swears at his TV, usually all within the space of one game!  His rants from the comfort of his couch are brutally honest with no punches pulled. Follow him on Twitter: @HDCouchCritic

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- Hein Diemont

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  • Derik

    Haha, thanks for the brief comic relief – my Friday needed that.

    First – comparing the Lions to the Stormers in terms of not facing NZ sides in 2017 and 2016 respectively, is a joke. This year the Stormers played NZ sides, and nobody is touting them possible winners because they have had the “NZ experience”. The Lions is simply in another class and will not follow the same route as the Stormers. If the Lions face the Highlanders in the quarters (highly likely), then it will be a very tight game, but one they should win.

    Secondly – the final’s host is all but decided. The Crusaders are playing without their AB front row this weekend, against a Hurricanes side that has selected a full strength team. It will be home advantage to the Hurricanes, and based on the previous match (20-12 to the Crusaders on their home turf), I smell a Hurricanes victory. Even if the Crusaders top the log, they would still have to play at least one NZ team in the playoffs, so it is not even certain that they will reach the finals.

    Thirdly – I appreciate your article was to bring another perspective, perhaps calm the mood. But the fact is that the Lions currently have the firing power to win this competition. Only their NZ counterparts currently have the prowess to beat them (the Lions have been undefeated against fellow SA sides for two seasons). And experience has shown that home advantage greatly favours the home team in cross-continental encounters. So I foresee the Lions going all the way to the final. If it does happen to be in Christchurch, I’ll put my savings on the Crusaders to take it. Maar op die Park… Historic first title to the Lions.

    • Stephan Steyn

      So I guess after the weekends results your entire argument in this article fell flat on its ass? Which makes this entire article seem a bit silly now doesn’t it? Rule about rugby and sport in general…anything can happen on any given day especially when opposing teams are fairly evenly matched. Don’t do sports journalism if you make ridiculous statements like the one you made in this article.

    • Hein Diemont

      I think I made a few (valid) points to prove my argument. Of course Swys being announced as coach helps and a Canes win will also see things further in favour of the Lions.

    • Charlie

      Finally some sense… Thanx Derik

    • BB

      YIP, have to agree! Really backing our Lions to pull it through this year. Still a lot of rugby to be played up to the final. GOOO LIIIONNSSS!!!!!!!!

  • Fanie

    Hein do not give up your day job the Lions are not chokers and the Brumbies who are from OZ gave them a hiding.I read these mindless articles about the Lions they are put on Tanks address who do not like Whitely is really not on but here is the Stormers logo It is business as usual you played Kiwi sides lets see how you do come finals.

    • Hein Diemont

      The point was regarding a team not having played NZ opponents – it just happened to be the Stormers last time out. I completely agree that the Lions are a much better side than the Stormers have been over the last few season.

      Of course now not having to travel to NZ is superb news for Ackermann and his chargers as this lessens the Kiwi effect.

  • Darion Hill Darion Hill

    The lions can win the super rugby this year but the crusaders have been on form throughout the year so far.. and the NZ derbys are always a close games.. we’ve seen the chiefs draw 16-16 against the blues so expect a great game between the two NZ sides

    But if lions want it they will fight for it and its possible for them to get it but there are simply better and far more hungrier teams wanting the title

  • humblepie

    Hein seem to assume an untested team is a poor team. Not so. Remember that the NZ teams are just as untested against the Lions and they will be very nervous.
    Hein suggests that the test series increased the workload of the Lions but then forget that the NZ teams had a far more brutal test series that included a 4th game against the British Lions.
    The Crusaders will have to play the Hurricanes twice enroute to a final against the Lions. Dont bet on them to reach the finals.
    I agree with Derik. Hein should not give up his day job.

    • Hein Diemont

      Humblepie the difference for me is that the NZ teams pkay sides like the Lions on a weekly basis in the form of their felliw Kiwi sides. The Lions get a lot less of that – who would you say are the best opponents the Lions have faced thus far??

      It is however in this department that the recent test experience of guys like Cronje, Mostert, Dreyer, Skosan and Coetzee could actually work in their favour. As they have now played at a higer level.

  • Oracle Rugby

    Hmmm, I read a comment on the stuff website in NZ and someone said the opposite which not a lot of people have been looking at including me, the NZ Teams are lucky to not have faced this Lions team, I cannot see the Lions losing another game even in NZ!! In fact at time of writing prior to the Hurricanes v Crusaders game I have taken some more 4/1 about the Lions winning the tournament!! Interesting result thsi morning, the Sunwolves beat Blues by 28 points, 3 more than the Australians have lost in games v NZ opposition this year and a massive swing of 112pts less than the Lions beat them by, makes you think. The gulf between the Lions and the rest has opened up to huge prepotions

    • Hein Diemont

      Good value that punt especially after the Canes result! Still believe they would have been comfortably beaten in Christhurch. But now we will never know…

      • humblepie

        Do I sense a flip flop from the “…DOOMED!” opinion of 24 hrs ago?

        • Hein Diemont

          Some of my concerns are now less (you will remember that I listed a few). Others sill have to be proven wrong HP.

      • sunnyskies

        “But now we will never know”
        Hein, you are assuming the Lions will beat the Sharks in Durban. We are all assuming that will happen, however if it doesn’t the Lions could still end up travelling to Christchurch.

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