The woeful performance of the Cats backline again showcased how integral Loffie Eloff is to the Johannesburg side firing.
The Cats conundrum is a perplexing one, but there is a common thread to their ever-dwindling performances. It is not the presence of Cheetahs players or the splitting of home games, but the failure to allow Loffie the Lion to become Loffie the Cat.
Eloff’s pedigree is not based on reputation or rumour, but results. Two U19 world championships and the annual performance of the Lions backline in the Currie Cup is testament to his value.
Players such as Andre Pretorius and Jaque Fourie emphasise the influence of Eloff on their careers, but the Cats seem to rely on other authority.
Last year Chester Williams’ appointment as head coach, allied with Brendan Venter’s as defensive guru, meant Loffie got the ‘thanks for coming’.
This year Bok assistant coach Allister Coetzee got the nod, and the directionless disaster of a backline showing on Saturday is surely not the work of an international coach.
If anything, the chasm of difference between the Lions’ backline in the Currie Cup last year and the Vodacom Super 12 underlined the value of the most underrated coach in South African rugby.
The difference in quality between Pretorius and Calamity Snyman, the man who delivered one of the worst No 10 performances ever witnessed at Ellis Park, certainly played its role but one wonders if a talent such as Naas Olivier would have been allowed to bolster the Stormers’ ranks if Eloff was involved.
Eloff’s experience at U19 level is sure to have taught him one thing: If you’re good enough, you’re old enough. And if you ain’t got it, you ain’t got it. That discretion is severely lacking in the Cats setup.
It does not take an analyst of any particular quality to have called the shocker Calamity Snyman delivered. After returning from injury for last year’s Vodacom Super 12, he has delivered a solitary convincing display. And that was against the Leopards.
To expect him to step up and marshall his line at Super 14 level in a highly pressurised game was farcical. Olivier could not have done worse.
With Pretorius and Nel Fourie both crocked, Snyman seems sure to keep jersey 10. It will be argued that it is a decision necessitated by injury, but one suspects the presence of Eloff would have meant the only action he would have seen would have been in the stands or as the mascot.