Currie Cup Loffie’s priority

After being named as the Lions coach for the 2007 Vodacom Super 14, Eugene Eloff confirms that his focus remains on the 2006 Absa Currie Cup.

“It was a complete surprise, but I am very pleased to recieve the job,” Eloff told keo.co.za. “It will be some time before we start planning for the competition, as there is still the Currie Cup semi-finals to consider. All my energy is devoted to that at the moment.”

The Lions have been persisting with their administrative prepartations for the regional competition in spite of the Southern Spears legal battle with the South African Rugby Union. The new development sees Saru attempting to buy out shares in the South Eastern Cape franchise, and although nothing is confirmed as yet it seems likely that the Lions will remain in the Sanzar tournament for at least another year.

The Johannesburg side has enjoyed a revival under Eloff after a dismal Super 14 and a diabolical start to the domestic season. Loffie has shown faith in his young charges, and the players have come through of late with six wins in succession. At fifth position on the log, they are now well-placed to steal a semi-final spot.

But after the tight 34-32 win against Griquas last Saturday, the Lions will need to lift their game against Vodacom Western Province at Ellis Park if they are going to stay in contention.

“I was very happy in that we obtained our goals in securing the win and the bonus point, but the way that the side went about it was less impressive,” Eloff told keo.co.za. “After we scored all those tries we tended to relax and lose concentration.”

While other minnows around the country were being duly thrashed by stronger opponents, Griquas fought back bravely and almost snatched a victory. Eloff lauded the Kimberley side for their efforts, but believes that his team were guilty of some slack play.

“It goes to show that you can never underestimate the smaller unions,” he said. “When we had the momentum we should have put a big score past them, but we allowed them back into the game.

“Nowadays you can’t afford to slip up against the smaller unions. If you do not ensure that there is as much mental preparation as physical preparation ahead of these games, you could end up being dominated by one of these ‘lesser’ sides.”

Nevertheless, the Lions scored some sparkling tries, with flyhalf Jaco van Schalkwyk having another solid game. On Saturday, he should vacate the first receiver channel for Andre Pretorius and shift up to first centre.

“Jaco is an extremely gifted player and I’m pleased with how he has grown in that position. He really can play anywhere in the backline, and this versatility helps when you have a player like Andre coming back into the starting side.”

By Jon Cardinelli