JOHANNESBURG – Facing the Crusaders away could not have come at a more trying time for the Lions.
The teams meet in Christchurch in a repeat of the last two Super Rugby finals – both won by the Crusaders – with all sorts of issues, on and off the field, surrounding the Joburg side.
While they won last time out, in Hamilton against the Chiefs last Friday to end a two-match losing run, they did so against a backdrop of some turmoil, with head coach Swys de Bruin having left the squad on the eve of the match to return to South Africa.
Also, defence coach Joey Mongalo has returned home from tour after he was convicted and sentenced in a Sydney court for indecent assault, stemming from an incident in a hotel last year.
What the departure from New Zealand of the team’s two most senior coaches has done is leave the team with regular conditioning coach Ivan van Rooyen in charge.
He will be assisted, in the main, by De Bruin’s son Neil, who has been the team’s attack coach for the last two seasons, and forwards boss Philip Lemmer.
At this stage, it is not known when De Bruin will return to coach the side, if at all.
He only recently signed a contract extension with the Lions, which is supposed to keep him in charge for 2020 and 2021.
He is also expected to join up with the Springboks management team after the Super Rugby competition and work alongside head coach Rassie Erasmus as the team’s attack coach at the World Cup.
How his “medical condition” could affect this role is uncertain.
It has, meanwhile, been learned that in Mongalo’s absence, Springbok defence guru Jacques Nienaber could assist the Lions when they return to Super Rugby action in two weeks’ time.
They have a bye next week after returning from the Crusaders match this weekend.
Chiefs v Lions | Super Rugby 2019 Rd 10 Highlights— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) April 19, 2019
The @LionsRugbyCo hold off a fast-finishing @ChiefsRugby to score a crucial 23-17 win on the road in Hamilton.#SuperRugby #CHIvLIO pic.twitter.com/cNlsCd3nVC