De Bruin’s side lost 31-20 to the Brumbies at the weekend to go with earlier defeats by the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks
Head coach Swys de Bruin has hinted that Lions fans are going to have to be patient with their team in 2019.
The three-time runners-up and South Africa’s best outfit in 2016, 2017 and last year are seemingly going through what can only be called a rebuilding phase following the departure to Europe of several big-name players at the end of last season. And it’s showed on the field.
At the halfway point of this year’s competition the Lions have a 50 percent win record, having won four games and lost four. They are currently in last place in the five-team SA conference and still have to face the Chiefs and Crusaders on their three-match tour of Australasia.
De Bruin’s side lost 31-20 to the Brumbies at the weekend to go with earlier defeats by the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks. They also only just managed to sneak past the Rebels.
While pleased with some of his team’s attacking play against the Brumbies, De Bruin lamented his side’s poor defence – something he attributed to all the new faces in the Lions team this year.
“There are a few guys we’re still grooming players from our junior system,” said De Bruin.
“(Right now) it’s not about only winning and losing; it can’t be (about that) when you’ve lost up to 13 players since last year, and had to bring in a bunch of new guys. We’re blooding guys at the moment, they’re learning and it means we’re in more or less the same place we were in 2014.”
Five years ago the Lions had just returned to Super Rugby after sitting out the 2013 season (to make place for the Southern Kings) and under the guidance of De Bruin and then head coach Johan Ackermann, the Lions slowly built a team of mainly discarded players from other unions. Two years later they qualified for the final. And they did the same in 2017 and last year.
Many of those players went on to become Springboks and the Lions were, by some distance, SA’s premier team.
However, Ackermann and his son, loose forward Ruan, left the Lions after the 2017 campaign and they were followed to Europe by Faf de Klerk, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Jaco van der Walt, while Akker van der Merwe, Corné Fourie and Andries Ferreira also left for other franchises.
It has meant that De Bruin has had to virtually build a new team from scratch again this year.