Lions name new captain

2011-03-31 14:41

Johannesburg - Franco van der Merwe has stepped down as captain of struggling Super 15 team the Lions, saying he wants to focus on improving his own performances.

The second rower said on Thursday he had been battling for form and needs to "focus on my own game right now."

The Lions said centre Doppies la Grange would take over as skipper of a team which has won just one of its last 20 Super Rugby fixtures, losing five out of six games this season.

The Johannesburg outfit went winless in last year's Super 14, the first time a team has lost 13 games in a Super rugby tournament.

Van der Merwe backed La Grange ahead of Saturday's game against Australia's Reds, saying: "Doppies has been playing some very good rugby and is a good leader."

Van der Merwe, who replaced Cobus Grobbelaar as captain when Mitchell arrived to try and rescue the Lions sinking ship, has paid the price for his lineout frailties after he received a savage mauling against the Bulls by opposite number Victor Matfield.

Both after the loss to the defending champions and on Thursday, Mitchell made no bones about the fact the lineout cost them the Loftus match, and with Van der Merwe beaten to no less than four balls by Matfield at crucial times in the game, he will no longer lead the side.

The Lions have made it clear that it was a “collective decision” but such a drastic move in the middle of the season is uncommon in rugby terms, and either the captaincy was interfering with Van der Merwe’s primary role as player, or there has been a shift away in confidence from the man Mitchell has trusted with the leadership role for the last year.

La Grange, whose form is exceptional at the moment and who has strong leadership qualities himself, will now move up from vice-captain. No replacement vice-captain has been named.

“We’ve been beaten by small margins in the games and it wasn’t an easy decision to make. But if that is what it takes to move forward as a team, then a big decision like this needs to be made,” Van der Merwe said after announcing he was stepping down.

“There is a lot of pressure on the captain - but remember this was not a one-man decision but rather a collective of the coaching and management team and the senior players. This is the decision that it is the best way forward. If I can help improve my form and the way forward by stepping down, then it is for the best.”

Mitchell said no other candidates had been considered, primarily because former captains Cobus Grobbelaar and Wikus van Heerden weren’t certainties in their positions in the team.

“There was nobody else considered. Form is the outstanding quality firstly and then how the player is followed by teammates and his actions. The other players are in competition for places and there are no certainties in this group,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell made a few other changes to the side, signalling his intent not to be happy with the team’s slide into mediocrity. Elton Jantjies has been dumped for Andre Pretorius, while Joshua Strauss returns in place of Derick Minnie.


Lions: 15. Michael Killian, 14. Lionel Mapoe, 13. Waylon Murray, 12. Doppies La Grange (captain), 11. Deon van Rensburg, 10. Andre Pretorius, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Warren Whitely, 7. Joshua Strauss, 6. Cobus Grobelaar, 5. Franco van der Merwe , 4. David Bullbring, 3. Patric Cilliers, 2. Bandise Maku, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg.

Substitutes: 16. Edgar Marutlulle, 17. Jacobie Adriaanse, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Derick Minnie, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute.

Reds: TBA


  • SAFFA-CAT - 2011-03-31 14:47

    You see @Alwyn...told you. I called it 2 weeks ago - Magic. A good move this. Nice cappie in the backline, a thinker, good rugby brain and calm....The most underrated player in the country might finally get some respect as captain. Good luck Doppies.

      GILLBERT - 2011-03-31 14:53

      i hate to agree with you, but good call

      CrisCross - 2011-03-31 14:53

      completely agree!

      Gertjie_Mac - 2011-03-31 14:54

      Good choice yes, but still a bit of shambles in that squade. Is this not the 3rd captain in 4 weeks? (Help me out here please) they need stability now and they should make this move stick!

      gooinat - 2011-03-31 15:01

      Indeed you did Saffa,good call there,really hope the tide turns for the Lions. Doppies, good luck there old boy,special player this,also very loyal to his union.

      nixcroft - 2011-03-31 15:05

      no this isnt the 3rd captain is 4 weeks, franco has been captain all season.

      Gertjie_Mac - 2011-03-31 15:10

      @ nixcroft. Thanks, my bad!

      Kaapie - 2011-03-31 15:14

      Agree the best performing inside centre in SA at the moment.

      gooinat - 2011-03-31 15:48

      @Alwyn,who's place will he take at the Bulls,meisiekind or Pretorius???

      Gertjie_Mac - 2011-03-31 15:54

      @ gooinat, they'd probably play all three at the same time, hell they need all the help they can get.

      Supersmurf - 2011-03-31 15:57

      At this stage i must say Pretorius,,Now i made your day,and by the way im flattered being called Alwyn but i am not Alwyn,,,,,,My name is Jacobus

      gooinat - 2011-03-31 15:59

      @Gertjie,hahahahaha,good one!!!!:)

      Lloyd - 2011-03-31 16:59

      You called nothing. You suggested it. Big difference.

      Alwyn - 2011-03-31 23:50

      Ou Frankenstein weet seker nie meer waar om nog verloorspeeches vandaan te kry nie.Hy moet die Bulls se leiers vra hulle weet!Miskien gaan raad vra by die ou-Bulls kapteins wat ook n hele jaar lank niks gewen het nie.O ek is so bly ek is nie meer n Bull nie

  • SAFFA-CAT - 2011-03-31 15:09

    @Gooinat - even the fastest gunslinger dies eventually....

      gooinat - 2011-03-31 15:24

      hahahahahahahaha-good one that:)

  • Tantrum - 2011-03-31 15:14

    Are you going to hide in Ireland as well Franco :)

  • red - 2011-03-31 15:49

    Finally John Mitchell has smelt the next move to slowly get Elton to "claim" injury , and bring in Andre P & Carlos Spencer until Butch is back. and hopefully Frans Steyn before the season end ,Kamana,Taute,Killian and Mapoe all in at once then we sorted :)

      The Observer - 2011-03-31 16:14

      Just play Francis.

      The Observer - 2011-03-31 16:17

      O and Frans Steyn will not help the lions. Lions need quality at lose forward, lock and front row. Nothing wrong with the guys there but no dominators, no game breakers. They escpecially need a lose forward game breaking losie, they need an Alberts.

      red - 2011-04-01 01:20

      they had Alberts... :)

  • Marx - 2011-03-31 16:36

    The Lions have bigger issues than captaincy problems, there's definitely talent, but nothing happens, it seems they lack structure, they hardly stick to a gameplan, if there exists something called a game plan in jhb, sometimes it seems they are trying way too hard and can't keep calm when needed. Pretorius is NOT the answer at 10, unless a miracle has happened. Hope they can start getting a couple of wins.

  • Harry Davidson - 2011-03-31 16:45

    Maybe, maybe he wants to join the winning team - STORMERS !!!!!!

      Lloyd - 2011-03-31 16:58

      You've won nothing in 11 years and still counting.

  • AgPseDaddy - 2011-03-31 18:24

    I don't blame you Franco, i would also throw in the towel it must be hard on the mind to lose all the time. Until someone in the 'powers to be' in the Lions camp has the BALLS to sack Jankies and throw him out of Ellis Park the lions are doomed to lose every game this year as well.

  • Wow! - 2011-03-31 18:32

    Franco - you are a bloody good player AND you have the gumption to recognize that maybe Doppies is the better captain. Now that is leadership. Go for it LIONS!!!!!

  • Alwyn - 2011-03-31 23:51

    Shame man is my tweeling boetie nou afgegooi vd blogs af.Alwyn die 1ste waar is jy my boeta!?

  • Henry - 2011-04-01 05:04

    I don't see it as a improvement. They want a new captain and the next one in line was Doppies as he was vice caprain appointed in the beginning of the year. I have close contacts within the Lions and most people/ players will be surprised by this step. Why not going back to Baywatch rather. He has done it at least. I agree with Brendan Venter that the Lions is preforming above their ability and that they need more qaulity to take the bigs guns on, but I believe that they can take the Reds tis weekend.

  • Supersmurf - 2011-04-01 07:45

    Stormers,hulle supporters en Newlands is K@K

  • JohnnyBB - 2011-04-01 07:58

    .....Stormers = 11 year losers, faders....

  • supporter - 2011-04-01 11:13

    Good luck Doppies to you, Franco and the lions. Will support you all the way!!!!

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