Reyneke: ‘We must be patient’

Lions CE Manie Reyneke says Loffie Eloff’s dismal failure in his three-year plan will not necessarily cost him his job.

At the beginning of Eloff’s tenure he had envisaged the Lions competing in the Super 14 semi-finals this year. However, speaking to this website at the start of 2009 he readjusted those aims to a top seven finish.

With two rounds remaining the Lions lie in 12th spot on 19 points and even with a couple of bonus point victories over the Highlanders and Waratahs at Ellis Park it is impossible to end among the leading nine teams (the Force are already on 30 points).

Under Eloff the Lions have won just 20 from 64 Super 14 encounters and Currie Cup matches against the traditional four South African teams of the Sharks, Bulls, Cheetahs and Western Province.

Despite this 31% record Reyneke said a performance review will be only conducted after the end of the competition, while a replacement for Eloff will only be found if he is of ‘better quality’.

‘We need to sit down after the Super 14 and do some planning,’ Reyneke told keo.co.za. ‘We can speculate about things that went went wrong, but a lot of things went right – we were competitive in most games.’

The Lions have won three matches and have the worst defensive record in the competition with 48 tries conceded in 11 matches. They are a walking bonus point for the opposition but Reyneke blamed this on bad luck.

‘Injuries also play a big part, while the bounce of the ball hasn’t gone our way. If you look at four or five matches, we could’ve won them so we can’t just look at the negatives. First prize would obviously be to win all 13 games but we’ve been relatively competitive, we’ve developed good depth and have players putting up their hands for the Boks,’ he said.

Eloff’s contract runs until 31 October and when asked whether someone new will be found to take over before the match against the British & Irish Lions on 3 June as well as the Currie Cup, Reyneke gave an inconclusive answer.

‘It’s unfair to speculate on anyone’s career future at the moment, that goes for everyone at the union,’ said Reyneke. ‘Who said we are not going to do that [find another coach]? But if Loffie coaches the Currie Cup team, he’ll stay for next year’s Super 14.

‘It’s easy for people to throw around names of other guys to takeover, but you can’t just get rid of people. We’ll have discussions with other coaches only if they are of better quality.’

The Lions’ dismal record has been blamed on a lack of quality player resources. Jaque Fourie is the only current Springbok on the Lions’ books and while attempts have been made to bring other national representatives to Jo’burg this has failed.

‘It’s not easy to get Boks here as they are all in contracts – it hasn’t been through a lack of trying,’ said Reyneke. ‘But our guys are the future Boks, if you look at Jano Vermaak, Louis Ludik, Heinke van der Merwe and Gerhard Mostert. We must just be patient.’

The same things were said to this website by the Lions executive committee this time last year and it seems Eloff’s original three-year plan will now be extended further.

By Grant Ball