With the 22nd year of Super Rugby fast approaching, we take a look a look at the Emirates Lions Super Rugby Prospects in 2017.
Emirates Lions Super Rugby Prospects
The South African teams, competing in two separate conferences, seem to be relatively evenly matched. The early prediction is that the Lions will be the team to beat and the Kings likely to be the basement dwellers again. In between we are likely to see the a close contest for supremacy between the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Cheetahs. As we know, is a very long tournament and anything could possibly happen.
Anyone wanting to rule the roost in the South African conferences will have to beat the Lions at some stage in the tournament.
Outgoing players are locks MB Lusaseni who has retired and Martin Muller who has been released from contract. Flanks Stephan de Wit, who is off to the Stormers, Ruaan Lerm who moves to the Kings and Warwick Tecklenburg, who retired rather suddenly during the pre-season to pay attention to the family farming business.
Flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff is off to Connacht in Ireland and wing Sampie Mastriet who has also been released from his contract. Fullback JW Bell is off to to Spain to join Valladolid.
Incoming players are prop Sti Sithole from the Kings and promising young lock Marvin Orie from the Bulls. On balance, this is one of the more stable South African squads entering the 2017 tournament.
Performance in 2016
The Lions were the most successful South African Super Rugby franchise in 2016, finishing 1st in the Africa 2 Conference, 1st of the South African teams and 2nd overall. They were losing finalists to the Hurricanes.
Ackermann was originally the forwards coach of the Lions in Super Rugby under then Head Coach, John Mitchell. After Mitchell left the Union, Ackermann took over the top job of a franchise in the doldrums and stripped of its Super Rugby status.
The Lions results in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, as well as the number of new Springboks they have delivered over the last three years speaks for itself. Some may claim that this was on the back of Mitchell’s structures and there may be some merit in that. What does hold merit is that Ackermann had the ability to take up the reigns and make it work. He is highly regarded as a coach and along with Swys de Bruin has developed a completely new culture in the Lions franchise.
The Style of Play
Quite honestly, we don’t see the Lions doing anything different in the way they approach the game in 2017. They are going to continue with their high tempo, ball in hand style of play because it works for them. The critical change they will have to make is in their defence. Their attacking play is highly entertaining, but they will be acutely aware of the fact they can occasionally leak too many tries. That may be a bit harsh given that they were losing finalists, but they learned hard lessons against New Zealand teams in 2016 and will have their eye on actually winning the tournament in 2017.
The Playing Kit
Courtesy of the Emirates Lions, here are their home and away kits for 2017:
We look forward to another entertaining season from the Lions in 2017. Their legion of fans will be hoping that this is the year that they go all the way and take the title.