Player strike over-played

Reports of a player revolt at the Lions ahead of next Wednesday’s match against the British & Irish tourists have been over-hyped.

It was reported that senior players were going to walk out of the team due to Loffie Eloff’s sacking on Wednesday and that a second-string team would face the northern tourists next Wednesday.

Andre Pretorius claimed a ‘message would be sent out’ by the players, but this was short-lived and not reflective of the entire squad. The players were merely addressed by the Lions executive on the situation and why Eloff had been axed, not to hear certain Lions’ fears.

How Pretorius can even have such a stance is ludicrous, but not surprising. Pretorius and Jannes Labuschagne were ear-marked to be used as assistant coaches by Eloff if he stayed in charge next year, typical of the insular approach.

Now that Eloff has been sacked, Pretorius was worried about his personal future after a less than successful comeback during the Super 14.

The chance to play against the British & Irish Lions is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity. Most players have described it as such, with only Pretorius willing to put the fixture in jeopardy. The rest of the squad will take the  former stance and will be privileged to play in such a match. 

How any players can be loyal to Eloff after his three-year failure is nonsensical. His 32% win record in meaningful matches says a lot, while Hans Coetzee has been left with a major repair job.

Eloff wanted to play an expansive game, but the players were in no condition to do so, while the analyses done on the team and opposition was that of a club team’s standard. This idealistic approach would have again been found wanting in a Test-like fixture against the British & Irish Lions.

The Lions will face a touring side comprising largely of players in their first match since jetting into the country (the Lions’ side on Wednesday will be very different to that in the tour-opener). The hosts may be in a vulnerable situation without the best preparation due to the sideshows, but they have a chance to surprise the visitors – a chance that shouldn’t be missed.

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg