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'SA Rugby can't afford passengers': Lions latest URC 'diabolical' showing a cause for concern

By Sam Smith
(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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The Emirates Lions were on the wrong end of another lopsided defeat in the latest round of the United Rugby Championship, enduring more suffering at the hands of the Bulls going down 34-10.

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The Johannesburg-based club has continued to fall from the heights achieved in Super Rugby under former coach Swys de Bruin, where they reached three straight Super Rugby finals and were South Africa’s premier team for a number of seasons.

Since 2020, the Lions have just five wins across 24 fixtures in Super Rugby, Pro14 Rainbow Cup and United Rugby Championship tournaments. They have managed three draws after conceding 16 losses.

Many of those losses have occurred against their traditional South African rivals, the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks, who they competed in a domestic-only Super Rugby Unlocked tournament and Rainbow Cup tournament in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic restrictions on international travel.

It is clear they have become South Africa’s worst pro franchise with the Southern Kings entering liquidation and the Free State Cheetahs losing their status as a Super Rugby or Pro club and becoming a Currie Cup team.

Fans described their latest performance as ‘aimless’ and a ‘dire display’. Fans lamented that their recruitment has become ‘nothing short of diabolical’. The squad doesn’t have a current Springbok on their roster, with a few ex-Boks scattered among the team.

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Rugby365’s Jan de Koning summarised the Lions as being ‘their own worst enemies’ in his match report, noting the ‘comedy of errors’ in their execution.

“They were almost their own worst enemies, their execution nothing more than a comedy of errors,” he wrote.

“It did not help that Lions captain Burger Odendaal was knocked out cold, getting his head on the wrong side in a tackle, early in the second half. He departed on a mobile stretcher.

“The home team also lost veteran utility forward Willem Alberts to injured midway through the second half.

“The only real positive for the Lions was their powerful scrums and the occasional maul.”

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