• Lions coach: We back our player pool

    Swys de Bruin is confident that the Lions have the necessary depth in talent to cope with the departure of several players after this season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    Having finished as Super Rugby runners-up in 2016 and 2017, the Lions have unequivocally established themselves as the leading South African side over the past couple of seasons, while they again finished top of the local conference this year.

    It’s been a particularly memorable period for the Lions, but to some extent, there is now set to be a changing of the guard as certain players move on to other pastures.

    Among the departing group, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Andries Coetzee will all bid farewell to the Lions, while Faf de Klerk, Ruan Ackermann and Jaco van der Walt headed overseas last year.

    For now, the Lions’ only focus remains on Saturday’s quarter-final clash against the Jaguares, with the aim of progressing through to another title decider, before hoping to provide the ideal send-off for outgoing players.

    However, behind the scenes, the Lions have been very mindful of the importance of their long-term succession planning aimed at ensuring continued success.

    It was a subject that De Bruin touched on when chatting to SARugbymag.co.za ahead of Saturday’s playoff match.

    ‘We want to embrace a policy of backing our own talent that’s at our disposal. We have a really good youth system in place here, and it’s important for us to put trust in our own home-grown players.

    ‘The plan is to continue backing our players, who we believe are good enough, and we’ll only really look to buy in players from elsewhere if absolutely necessary in specific positions.’

    This was the case when Nic Groom was recruited earlier this season to add additional experience to the Lions’ scrumhalf stocks, while prop Danie Mienie is soon set to join the Johannesburg-based side, effectively as a successor to Van Rooyen.

    Springboks such as Warren Whiteley, Ross Cronjé and Courtnall Skosan have also gone on record to say that they are happy at the Lions, while there are a number of talented youngsters in the system who impressed for the Junior Boks at the recent World Rugby U20 Championship.

    With this in mind, De Bruin insisted that it certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom as some sought to suggest.

    ‘Of course, there comes a time when certain players move on, as we’ve seen, but there are also a lot of others who are staying, and then there’s an encouraging succession system in place. So we’re very excited about what lies ahead.’

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    Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Backpagepix

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    Craig Lewis