JOHANNESBURG - How quickly fortunes can change in sport. A little over two weeks ago the Lions were preparing for a back-to-back showing in the Super Rugby final - at home and in front of 62 000 fans - and now they’re struggling to score a try in the Currie Cup.
The situation is not quite dire and there won’t be talk at the union of it being a crisis, but the reality is the Lions are not in a good place.
They have gone from being a near championship-winning Super Rugby side, where they scored bucket-loads of tries and were one of the best defensive outfits in the competition, to fighting for every point in the Currie Cup, where they currently occupy last spot on the seven-team points table. With one win from five outings they are the worst performing team and have nine log points.
Sure, they are under new management in head coach Swys de Bruin, former defence boss JP Ferreira is now the attack coach and the new defence boss is Joey Mongalo, but is that excuse enough for the Lions to concede 39 points at Newlands and score only a penalty? That was the scoreline on Friday night.
Because, even though they are missing several first choice players - 12 in total who’re either with the Springboks, playing in Japan or are injured - the side De Bruin pushed into the field last weekend still boasts quality in several areas.
The whole front row of Corne Fourie, Robbie Coetzee and Jacques van Rooyen are Super Rugby hardened, as is lock Andries Ferreira, and loose-forward Cyle Brink, too. At the back Jaco van der Walt, Harold Vorster, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink, Madosh Tambwe and Sylvian Mahuza have also all played Super Rugby in the last two years.
De Bruin will be somewhat worried his team were unable to score a try while conceding six against WP (a team that have also been disrupted by injury and national call-ups), and the week before that the Lions gave up a strong position to lose to the Sharks (47-31).
Their other defeats so far have come at the hands of the Blue Bulls (54-22) and the Pumas (43-36). Their only win so far was registered against Griquas, at home (48-43).
And it’s not going to get any easier for De Bruin and Co. This weekend they have to travel to Bloemfontein for a date with the defending champions, the Cheetahs - who’re coming off a last-gasp win against the Bulls at Loftus.
That’s followed by a home game against the Pumas and then a trip to Kimberley for a date with Griquas - both matches the Lions will feel they have to win if they’re to have any chance of making the top four and a place in the semi-finals. Because after that, it’s the Bulls, Sharks, WP and the Cheetahs to come to wrap up the round-robin play.