2019 Lions Super Rugby Preview

January 09, 2019 - With just over two weeks to go until our first warmup match against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday 26 January, it's time to preview our 2019 Super Rugby season.

We've lost the services of Ruan Dreyer, Corne Fourie, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert and Jacques van Rooyen.

Jaco Kriel was injured for the whole of the 2018 Super Rugby season, so his loss will not really have an impact, although it must be said that he is one of the most talented fetchers of all time and certainly in the top 5 of all time greats that played for the Lions, so he will be missed.

Losing Ruan Dreyer at Tighthead and Franco Mostert at Lock will probably have the biggest impact of the players that left. Both were regular starters in the 2018 season and they will leave a gap that is going to be difficult to fill.

At Tighthead the candidates to take over from Ruan Dreyer are Jacobie Adriaanse, Johannes Jonker and loan player from WP, Carlu Sadie. This is an extremely important position in rugby, if your Tighthead struggles, your scrum will struggle and you will concede penalties, giving momentum to your opponent and obviously not getting momentum yourself.

At lock we will probably have Marvin Orie, Lourens Erasmus and Rhyno Herbst to pick from, while Stephan Lewies is also on loan from the Sharks and available for selection. It's unclear at this stage if Robert Kruger and Andries Ferreira will be available, and Lourens Erasmus is injured and will only be available later in the competition, which means that Orie and Lewies will probably be the likely starters.

The loss of Jacques van Rooyen at loosehead is also a big one, he was more than solid for the Lions over a number of years, and I was surprised that he never got a look-in for higher honours, but we do have more than capable players at Loosehead in Dylan Smith, Danie Mienie and Sti Sithole to keep this position covered.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg is also a big loss, he is a hugely talented player, but for some reason that's difficult to explain, he wasn't a regular starter at Inside Centre for us in 2018 after he recovered from his injury. I guess it can be said that if he can work on his distribution and defence, he will walk into any team.

So in summary I think we might be at risk at Tighthead, but then again there is also the opportunity for players to take the step up and make the position theirs. It will also be interesting to see which of the junior Lions can make the step-up to Super Rugby if given the chance, and here we can keep an eye on players like Stephen Bashera (Prop), Driaan Bester (Lock), Wandisile Simelane (Centre), Tyrone Green (Wing), Jan-Louis la Grange (Fullback), Gianni Lombard (Fullback), Manual Rass (Centre) and HP van Schoor (Hooker).


Coaching staff *

It's a big positive that the coaching staff from last season remain in place for 2019, so this will certainly bring continuity and they can show that they have learnt and grown since last year this time.
Head Coach: Swys de Bruin
Forward Coach: Philip Lemmer
Backline Coach: Neil de Bruin
Defence Coach: Joey Mongalo
Conditioning: Ivan van Rooyen

* In the original article I had wrongly indicated Joey Mongalo as the Backline Coach. He is the Defence Coach and Neil de Bruin is the Backline Coach.


Injuries

We have five players on the injury list at the moment:
Cyle Brink,
Robbie Coetzee,
Ross Cronje,
Lourens Erasmus and
Johannes Jonker.
Of the five, only Lourens Erasmus will not be available to play at the beginning of February.


Competition Structure

The structure of the competition will once again allow the best South African team to have a fairly easy path to the final. Obviously this isn't fair or ideal, and I'm surprised that the competition format was kept the same for at least the next two years, as the dwindling crowds showed that an urgent change was needed in my opinion.

The aim is thus to make sure that you top the South African conference, and you are then likely to have a home semi-final and away final to the top New Zealand side, unless you can keep your losses to a minimum and top the overall log to get a home final. The Jaguares and Sharks are likely to be the biggest competition for the top of the SA conference.


Pre-season warm-up

We are scheduled to play just two warmup matches:
26 January 2019 vs Bulls at Loftus, kickoff at 14:00
3 February 2019 vs Sharks in Cape Town, kickoff at 14:00

Our 1st regular match is on 16 February 2019 vs the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, kickoff at 23:40 SA Time, and our 1st home game is on 2 March 2019 vs the Bulls, kickoff at 15:05.


Likely 2019 Squad

The 2019 Super Rugby squad is likely to be: (Alphabetical)
Loosehead Props: Mienie, Sithole, Smith
Tighthead Props: Adriaanse, Jonker, Sadie
Hookers: Coetzee, Jansen, Marx
Locks: Erasmus, Ferreira, Herbst, Kruger, Lewies, Orie
Flankers: Brink, De Villiers, Massyn, Schoeman, Smith, Venter
Number 8: Dayimani, Whiteley (Capt)
Scrumhalf: Cronje, Groom, Smit
Flyhalf: Jantjies, Reynolds
Centres: Mapoe, Mnisi, Simelane, Vorster
Wings: Combrinck, Dyantyi, Skosan, Tambwe
Fullback: Coetzee, Mahuza