Vodacom Super Rugby
Troublesome times for Lions
Johannesburg – The Lions’ home ground, Coca-Cola Park, will
be a red light district on Saturday - and it has nothing to do with Amsterdam’s
notorious Walletjies street.
The proverbial warning lights are flickering for a young
Lions side ahead of their seventh game in the Super Rugby tournament against
the Reds from Australia.
While Lions supporters can still swallow the fifth defeat in
this year’s tournament against the Reds, it’s the manner of the performances
the past two weeks that is leading to cold sweats.
Of course the Lions are again busy with the process of
trying to develop a young team into a future power, but just the thought of a
repeat of the 2010 collapse makes supporters nervous.
The Lions were also competitive in their initial matches
then, but they kept losing and lost confidence to such an extent that they went
into a downward spiral.
A sudden lack of confidence was also obvious in the losses
to the Force and Bulls after the Lions achieved some honour in previous
Their adventurous approach was initially easy on the eye,
but if there is hesitation in that kind of approach, the result is the kind of
poor handling and decision-making that the Lions have been guilty of the past
However, the team maintains that there is no problem with
the players’ attitudes.
The Lions actually have a decent record against the Reds.
Both sides won two games in their previous four encounters, while there was
also a draw.
Take note: The Reds have been a different proposition since
last year and are coming to Johannesburg with players like Quade Cooper, Digby
Ioane and Scott Higginbotham, who are all excelling.
Lions coach John Mitchell has to reconsider the choice of
players such as hooker Bandise Maku, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak and flyhalf Elton
Jantjies following the defeat in the Jukskei Derby.
It is true that the Lions’ depth is a lot better this year
than was the case in 2010. Mitchell does not have obvious better players in
most positions, but he has other options that won’t weaken the side.
Wielding the axe will therefore not make much of a
difference, though focus almost certainly will.
Last year the Reds toured well in South Africa and won two
of their three games. That includes a 41-26 win against the Lions at Coca-Cola
The Reds left for South Africa without injured fullback Ben