Loffie Eloff is bemused by the Lions’ fall from their once powerhouse status.
The Lions were woeful in their 56-18 defeat to the Stormers and there were no signs of Eloff’s much talked about three-year plan yielding any results in this campaign.
Success is not synonymous with the Jo’burg franchise in recent times, but in the early ’90s with Louis Luyt at the helm as president, the Lions were the dominant South African team.
In a period from 1992 to 1994 under coach Kitch Christie the Lions held virtually every title on offer with a pair of Currie Cups, three Lion Cups, two M-Net Night Series’, as well as the coveted Super 10 title in 1993.
How things have changed. Now the Lions look set for their customary wooden spoon battle with the Cheetahs, while there is not much quality coming through as the Vodacom Cup team has just suffered two defeats from two.
The Lions’ last trophy was winning the Currie Cup 10 years ago and Eloff couldn’t state whether the team representing the country’s biggest city could reach the heights of the Luyt-era.
“I can’t give you an answer to that,” said Eloff. “I have nothing to do with the administration, I’m a rugby coach. It’s not my field to comment on those things.
“Throughout history most provinces have gone through rough times and we have to get out of it somehow.”
Talent identification and recruitment have proved problematic for the franchise with high-profile players such as Bryan Habana, Rory Kockott, Ricky Januarie and Brian Mujati leaving – to name a few.
It is one thing if individuals leave for financial gain, but allowing a player such as Jean Deysel to depart virtually unnoticed is unforgivable.
When posed with how the Lions could realistically hope to keep stars such as Jaque Fourie and Baywatch Grobbelaar when suitors approach in future, Eloff maintains it should be no problem.
“They’ll stay as long as they want to,” said Eloff. “As long as they are happy in Jo’burg, they’ll stay.
“We lost on Saturday but it’s not the end of the world for the guys.”
The problems at the union run deep but there is still a long campaign ahead that needs to be turned around. Eloff likened his team’s situation to where the Stormers were before their bonus-point win.
“We are now in the same position as them, with one win from four, and they managed to change it around,” he said.
One thing that will have to improve against the Brumbies will be increased effort in defence and a pride in the jersey that was lacking at Newlands.
“We need that hunger and passion that the Stormers showed. They played like a team that wanted it badly and the result followed.”
By Grant Ball