29 Feb The Lions’ Domestic Form Will Currie Them To Super Rugby Glory!
“…Conquering lion, shall break every chain – give us some victory, again and again!” So go the lyrics of an age-old song titled “Lion of Judah” by the late reggae legend Bob Marley.
These lyrics are more relevant today than ever to all who are associated with local rugby franchise, Emirates Lions. The defending Currie Cup champions go into this season’s Vodacom Super Rugby tournament in fine form, having easily brushed local rivals aside in last season’s premier local competition. So rampant were the Jo’burg-based outfit in last year’s Currie Cup, that they managed to win all ten of their regular season matches, including the legendary 31-73 mauling (excuse the pun) of the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in September last year.
They then went on to beat the Cheetahs again, this time in the semi-final, before overcoming the 2014 champions, Western Province, 32-24 at Emirates Airlines Park, to lift the gold trophy. This meant that the Golden Lions, as they are known in the Currie Cup, managed to do the unthinkable in winning 12 out of 12 season matches, to become the more than worthy winners of the 2015 edition.
Having said that, it is also worth mentioning that they face a much tougher proposition in the world’s premier club tournament, as Super Rugby consists not only of local franchises, but also those from Australia, New Zealand, and recently Japan and Argentina.
But I’m not worried about that; and in fact I’m so confident of Johan Ackermann’s boys’ chances, that I’m willing to put my head on the block and predict that they will, at least, reach this year’s semi-finals! Here’s why I think they will go that far:
They keep getting better and better under Ackermann.
When you consider that they finished the 2014 season 12th on the overall log, and 8th last season, you can’t help but think that a spot in the quarter-finals is guaranteed this year. This is also considering their rapid improvement in the domestic Currie Cup since “Ackers” took over as coach in 2013 – being runners-up in 2014, before last year’s dominance.
They should top their own conference.
Surely the Sharks and Kings are going to be no match for the Jo’burgers, though I cannot yet comment on new boys, Jaguares, from Argentina. However, taking a glance at their opposition from their conference, which constitutes a majority of their regular season matches, one can be excused for thinking that they will walk all over their opponents to put themselves in a good position to win their conference.
They host a majority of their fixtures against the New Zealanders.
With the new 18-team format kicking off this season, the Lions will, like all the other 17 teams, play the 6-5-4 rule. That is, six matches against every other team from their own four-team “Africa 2” conference, home and away. Five against teams from Australasia, except this time they will only play against New Zealand opponents and not the Aussies, and four against teams from the “Africa 1” conference.
Hard as it will be to face the men from Down Under, who include the defending champions, Highlanders, the good news is that three of those five games will be played in Jo’burg (versus Crusaders, Hurricanes and Blues). We all know that the Lions are a force to be reckoned with, especially at home, so it would come as no surprise if they were to win all three of those matches.
All of the above-mentioned is therefore why I believe that the men from the highveld will live up to their nickname and truly be the #PrideOfJozi!
The Vodacom Super Rugby started on 26 February and will end on 6 August 2016.