JOHANNESBURG – Not hot new wing sensation Aphiwe Dyantyi or hardcore seasoned campaigner Warren Whiteley... or even rugby lifer, coach Swys de Bruin, are likely to utter a single word to the press this week as the Lions prepare for Saturday’s big derby against the Bulls at Loftus.
None of these men, or any Lions player or coach for that matter, is likely to do media interviews in the build-up to arguably the biggest Super Rugby match so far in this still young 2018 season.
But while the Lions have opted for what can be deemed a “no media” policy this week, including not hosting their weekly team announcement press conference at Emirates Airline Park on Thursday, the Bulls will go about their business as usual, with access to certain players and coaches throughout the week.
One would think the Lions – back-to-back runners up in the competition in 2016 and 2017 – wouldn’t have to “go-to-ground” in the week ahead of the first big derby against their neighbours; they’re an experienced team, with seasoned team leaders... and they’re a winning combination, with nothing to hide or fear.
It is usually teams in tight, difficult spots that close up shop and don’t talk to anyone – but not winning teams, who everyone are talking about, and wanting to hear from.
And the reasons – or is that excuses – for limiting media activities this week are almost laughable: “it is not a home game”, “SA Rugby are making an announcement that will dominate the news” and “we (the Lions) are launching our Test tickets”.
Perhaps the Lions just don’t want to be asked questions about the “rejuvenated” Bulls side under former coach John Mitchell.
This will, after all, be the Bulls boss’ first meeting at Super Rugby level against his former team, whom he coached to Currie Cup success in 2011, but then left the union after a player revolt a few months later.
The Bulls do, indeed, look “rejuvenated” after their travails of 2017, but they have played just one match and to judge them now, after one 80-minute performance, would be wrong and not very bright.
They did just edge the Hurricanes.
On the flipside, the Lions have produced all the sparkle so far in the competition – again – and will travel to Loftus on Saturday with everything in their favour and under no pressure at all.
The heat will squarely be on the home team and Mitchell, so if anyone was going to decline media requests this week you’d think it would be the Bulls, not the high-flying Lions.
Then there are the young players in the Lions ranks who the leaders might feel shouldn’t be bothered this week – men like Dyantyi... and that’s it.
All the others are experienced campaigners who’ve got a number of competitions behind them and played in finals and know what big, pressure-filled games are all about.
After earlier in the day saying there would be no interview opportunities this week, late on Monday, the Lions said De Bruin would be available for some interviews this week.
Meanwhile, the only other news coming out of the Lions on Monday – other than saying there would be no media interviews this week – was that there are no serious injuries to report after the game against the Jaguares last weekend.
That means De Bruin will in all likelihood pick the same squad that did duty last weekend for the much-anticipated match against the Bulls on Saturday. Kickoff is 5.15pm.
* This story has been updated.