Mission accomplished for Loffie’s Lions

Eugene Eloff believes that the Lions have already achieved their goal in turning the 2006 season around, and to make the playoffs now would be a bonus.

The Vodacom Cheetahs will need to win away at Loftus Versfeld and deny the hosts a bonus point if the Lions are to scrape through. This is assuming that the Jo’burg side picks up five points from their game in Witbank, which seems likely considering their recent form and ability to orchestrate some cracking tries.

But Eloff maintained that the Pumas game was their only concern for the time being. Whatever follows will be dealt with in due course.

“After the Super 14, we needed to work on changing from a losing team to a winning one,” Eloff told keo.co.za. “We have beaten all the top sides in the Currie Cup and have a chance of finishing on an eight game winning streak, so we have more than accomplished what we set out to do.

“If the Cheetahs do us a favour by beating the Bulls on Saturday, then that’s great, but we won’t consider the season a failure if we don’t make the semi-finals. It’s important that we take what we’ve achieved and build towards next year.”

While a lot of credit has gone to the former SA U19 coach for the Lions revival, the skipper Wikus van Heerden has also been lauded for his leadership skills. With Van Heerden moving north to the Vodacom Blue Bulls at the end of the season, it is feared that the Lions may lose some ground without a solid leader.

Eloff conceded that Van Heerden will be missed, but sees enough potential in his charges to extend the momentum well into 2007.

“It is a great loss, but the team is more than any one player. I respect Wikus’ decision to move to the Bulls, but we will need to progress without him.

“Although our team is young, the players are gaining more experience with every game. There are a few players who we have considered making captain when Wikus leaves, but will only address the issue at the end of the competition.”

By Jon Cardinelli