Regarding the last few weeks 2013 Super Rugby shenanigans, the GLRU have released the following statement.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union enjoyed probably their most successful year in the past 20 years in 2011 where they were crowned the Absa Currie Cup champions, Captain Joshua Strauss was named ABSA Currie Cup Player of the Year, Coach John Mitchell was awarded the title of South African Coach of the Year, the Lions were named Team of the Year, the U/19 team won the U/19 Absa Currie Cup, the Golden Lions Sevens team won the National Inter-Provincial Title, the Golden Lions clubs won the Sub-Union Tournament, UJ walked away champions of the students USSA competition and Justin Wheeler was named SARU National Club Championship Player of the Tournament.
Coming off such a successful run, all eyes were on the MTN Lions at the start of the 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby competition and expectations were high. However, fate had other ideas, and before the competition even kicked off, the team was struck by 11 injuries (Waylon Murray, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Whestley Moolman, Michael Killian, Dylan des Fountain, Michael Rhodes, Wikus van Heerden and Bandise Maku), presenting the coaches with challenges that no coach would envy.
Whilst three of the above mentioned players have since recovered and returned to the team, the team has suffered additional injuries and at the moment have 11 players out with injuries (Waylon Murray, Doppies la Grange, Alwyn Hollenbach, Michael Bondesio, Whestley Moolman, Dylan des Fountain, Michael Rhodes, Warren Whiteley, Wikus van Heerden, Stephan Greeff and Bandise Maku).
JC Janse van Rensburg and CJ van der Linde were both injured during the season as well and missed out on a number of games. Both have since recovered and returned to the team.
Although the situation has been less than ideal, it has given the coaching staff the opportunity to let some of the young players and new signings gain experience at an international level. This in itself has been very challenging, and given the current squad, the MTN Lions have 15 players who made their Super Rugby debut in 2012 (Michael Bondesio, Stephan Greeff, Andries Coetzee, Marius Coetzer, Tian Meyer, Caylib Oosthuizen, Ruan Dreyer, Ruan Combrinck, Paul Willemse, Ettienne Oosthuizen, Ross Cronje, Doppies le Roux, Grant Hattingh, Ruan Botha and Callie Visagie) and two players who have only ever played one Super Rugby match each (Hendrik Roodt and Jaco Kriel). Many of these players have not yet played at Currie Cup level, and inexperience in this competition is very costly. However, injuries are unavoidable and while the coaches are doing their very best with their available players, the rehabilitation staff are working equally hard to ensure the injured players return to the game soon.
Waylon Murray, Michael Rhodes, Warren Whiteley, Stephan Greeff, Michael Rhodes and Bandise Maku are expected to be ready by the end of the Super Rugby competition. Alwyn Hollenbach, Michael Bondesio, Dylan des Fountain and Whestley Moolman should be ready by the start of the Currie Cup.
Although the MTN Lions are currently at the bottom of the log of the 2012 Super Rugby competition and many have written them off, management is looking ahead to 2013 and a turnaround in team performance once again. At the present moment, the majority of the senior team have been contracted for 2013.
Regarding the current debates in the media around the Super 15 Franchise for 2013, SARU explained to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee: “The Kings will play in the competition in 2013, BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF ONE OF THE OTHER FRANCHISES”.
Ourselves, together with SARU and the other Unions, will come up with certain proposals which will be finalised at a General Council Meeting on Friday, July 13 2012.
I wish to again stress that myself, together with our CEO, EXCO, equity partner and other stakeholders, are working extremely hard to ensure that the Lions remain in the competition in 2013 and beyond.
The history and the legacy of this great Union is understood and appreciated by all in South Africa. I am also very pleased to be receiving enormous support and encouragement in our endeavours to retain our status.
I will also, as the President of the GLRU, invite you, our supporters, to a forum for a discussion with myself should you so require. Numbers and dates will determine this discussion taking place.
Internally, the GLRU underwent a restructuring process at the end of 2011 where they were streamlined internally and have become more efficient. One of the departments that is thriving is the Amateur Department who have undergone numerous transformations and are involved in some exciting projects.
The Easter Schools Festivals were extremely successful and the GLRU entered a Presidential XV team who won two of their three games, showing some great potential for future players, while earlier this week SARU named five Lions players to join the U/20 IRB Junior World Championship squad. Ruan Botha, Fabian Booysen, Marais Schmidt, Mark Pretorius and Paul Willemse will join the squad at the end of May.
In other news, the Golden Lions Rugby Union will be hosting the Springbok vs. England Test match on Saturday, 16 June 2012. Tickets are selling incredibly well at the moment and with over 34 000 tickets already sold and supporters who are thinking about purchasing tickets should act fast. Tickets are available at Computicket and the Coca-Cola Park Ticket Office and are priced between R175 and R450. To purchase your ticket, or for more information, contact the Coca-Cola Park Ticket Office on 011 402 8644 x 131.