fast little loans
Exactly eight months ago, on the morning of October 30, 2011, South Africans woke up to the reality the Lions had won the Currie Cup.
The previous evening, Saturday, October 29, at Coca-Cola Park, a team of unknowns had done the unthinkable by beating the star-studded Sharks to win South Africa’s most prized rugby trophy.
It was a victory that came just a few months after another dismal showing in Super Rugby and followed a few weeks of superb play by John Mitchell’s men, who’d dominated the Currie Cup competition.
For just a few hours, maybe even days, the problems that dogged the union for the last few years were forgotten. All was good at the union’s offices and there would have been those who would have said, “Who needs Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz?”
Others would have whispered, “You see what you can achieve when you’ve got a good coach in charge.”
The only thing is, eight months on from that glorious day when the long-suffering fans finally had something to cheer about, nothing much has changed at the Lions. In fact, the union’s woes have probably just become more pronounced ... on top of fighting to keep their Super Rugby status, they are now also coachless in a sense following the suspension of the man many deemed to be the Lions saviour ... Mitchell.
It is hardly surprising, then, that everyone who knows anything about rugby is again asking: “What the hell is going on at the Lions?”
After the much-publicised spat between the union and potential equity partners Gumede and Ichikowitz, the Lions joined forces with businessman Altmann Allers and also signed up new sponsorships, which are said to have helped out the union in alleviating their cash problems.
Whether they’ve paid all their debts and are now flush is unknown, but one senses that whatever the Lions’ financial position, they’re not a union that oozes power, confidence and sustainability.
Their showing in Super Rugby this year – winning just twice in 13 outings before today’s match – is no better than previous years’ results and is proof of just how flawed last year’s Currie Cup success was, when the other so-called big guns were missing their World Cup stars.
The Lions played good quality rugby last season and they deserved their Currie Cup win, but they were never tested throughout the campaign by full-strength Sharks, Bulls and Western Province teams, who were weakened by Springbok call-ups for the World Cup.
This year, with all the teams back to full-strength, the Lions have again come up short, and badly. The huge number of injuries picked up by several key players hasn’t helped their cause, that’s a fact, but they’ve also not helped themselves with their error-ridden performances. Are the players to blame or is it an ill-conceived game-plan thought out by the coach?
And now, in the last week, we hear of players seemingly having had enough of the tough as nails Mitchell – the man everyone loved eight months ago when he helped the side to the Currie Cup trophy. He’s being investigated for the manner in which he treated some of his players and is no longer coaching the team – have the players turned into “sissies”, as some out there are saying, or has Mitchell genuinely overstepped the mark somewhere?
Or is there something else that has led to this situation?
Golden Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk was as diplomatic and confident as ever answering questions about Mitchell this week, but he’ll be hurting inside. And he’ll be angry ... this is something he didn’t need. The Lions, it seems, just can’t stay away from controversy ... and when you’re fighting for your survival in Super Rugby, that’s not good news.
Whatever the outcome of the investigation into Mitchell, we can assume he is done with Lions rugby. The trust between himself and his players – if there was trust in the first place – is irreparably damaged. So if he’s not fired, he’ll probably walk away with a suitcase full of money and a lot of anger.
The Lions will now start building again – how many times have we heard that? – with a new coach, at the moment, Johan Ackermann, but with so much uncertainty, one wonders what the future holds for Lions rugby? Their Super Rugby fate will be decided by the Saru General Council on July 13 – a decision which, if it goes against the Lions, will be like a hammer blow to the union, its players and fans.
One has to ask why and how it has come to this? It’s simple ... poor decision-making in the boardroom has hurt the union and it hasn’t helped that the team have lost more matches than they’ve won.
Have the Lions learnt from past mistakes? It wouldn’t seem so, but we’ll have to reserve judgment for another day? When that day will be, is anyone’s guess.