Swys de Bruin says the Lions must move forward proactively with a relatively new-look coaching group, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Lions head into the 2018 Super Rugby season with a squad that remains largely unchanged from last year – albeit without Ruan Ackermann and Faf de Klerk – but there are some significant changes to the coaching staff.
The departure of highly successful Johan Ackermann has seen De Bruin take over the head coaching reins, while the Lions have also recently bid farewell to defence guru JP Ferreira, who has joined Munster.
Ahead of last year’s Currie Cup, assistant coach Joey Mongalo was promoted from the junior ranks, and will primarily take care of the backline and breakdown in 2018.
Following Ackermann’s departure to Gloucester, and with Victor Matfield only set to be utilised in a consultancy capacity, former UJ and Lions U19 assistant coach Philip Lemmer will now take charge of the forwards.
Despite these changes, it’s a group very familiar with the Lions brand of rugby, and De Bruin reiterated that the Johannesburg-based franchise would be sticking to the template of play that has worked so well in recent years.
‘We’re not going to change too much. Obviously we have looked at streamlining one or two things, and a slight change of plan, but basically we are going to stick to the Lions style of play.’
De Bruin said Ackermann would certainly be missed, but reiterated that the team needed to move forward.
‘Ackers [Ackermann] is a phenomenal coach and human being, and we will miss him immensely, but that’s the reality of the situation [that people move on], and I have full trust in Philip, who will run the forwards. Obviously Ackers will leave a massive vacuum if he leaves any team he was involved in coaching, but we have to keep moving forward and focus on the job at hand, and what we want to achieve. We can’t live in the past.’
The Lions will kick off their Super Rugby campaign against the Sharks on 17 February, and will beneficially play six of their first eight matches at home.
De Bruin said they were looking forward to getting the season under way as Super Rugby reverts back to a 15-team competition.
‘It will be more strength-versus-strength, and there will be different challenges, but all we’re focused on is sticking to our processes. I am very excited about the experience we have and the dynamic in the squad.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images