Lions coach Swys de Bruin has given New Zealanders a taste of their own medicine.
For many years South African franchises have been told to ‘get on with it’, when they complained about the ridiculously unbalanced travelling schedules – which see SA teams spend a month on the road, compared to the two-week trips of the Australasian teams.
In recent weeks the more cynical section of the New Zealand media said the Lions ‘don’t deserve’ to reach the final, because they have been favoured by the much-criticised conference system.
The system means the three conference winners are automatically guaranteed a top-three finish and home ground advantage in the opening round of the play-offs.
If the conference system were not employed, the Lions would have finished fourth – not second – as the Crusaders (63 points), the Hurricanes (51) and Chiefs (49) would all have finished ahead of the Lions (46).
However, the Lions coach, De Bruin, took a swipe at his team’s critics – when he addressed the media ahead of their semifinal showdown with the Waratahs at Ellis Park on Saturday.
“That’s their perception,” De Bruin said, when asked about the constant questioning of his team’s credentials.
“All I can tell you is that we never moan about travelling four weeks [to New Zealand and Australia] or blaming that.
“We travel four weeks and they travel two [weeks]. It makes a hell of a difference.
“Look at our results week three and four overseas.”
The Lions had a horror run on their Australasian tour this year – beating the Waratahs 29-0 in the first of their four matches.
Then the wheels came off – losing to the Reds, Hurricanes and Highlanders.
The men from Johannesburg then won three of their last four matches – beating the Brumbies (in Johannesburg), Stormers (Cape Town) and Bulls (Ellis Park) to top the SA conference and claim a top-two finish ahead of the Tahs.
De Bruin, who said he also wanted Super Rugby to return to a round robin format, told the critics to stop whining.
“I think it’s a case of they [should] just get on the with the job,” he said.
“We’re a no-moan team. I’m almost feeling sorry that I said it now because it sounds like I’m moaning.
“However, sport is an interesting thing – it can’t always be the referee, or the this, or the that, or the competition format, or injuries [harming you].
“You’ve got to play the hand that was dealt to you.”
The format is up for review and any possible changes will be made by the end of the year.
It is hoped the format will change back to a round-robin formula.
“Obviously,” De Bruin responded, when asked about a ‘more equitable’ system.
“We want a fairer [and] a better system.
“If we can travel [for just] two games and they travel [for] two games, it will be great.
“We want strength versus strength, we want a deal with the refs, 100 percent right.
“Any sportsman will tell you, the fairer the deal, the better for spectators, better for everyone.
“Honestly now, every time I read something from there [New Zealand] I just read that [the Lions don’t deserve to be in the Final].
“I would like to read something else for a change,” he said.
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