The Lions on Wednesday announced a shake-up of their coaching staff ahead of the inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC) competition starting on 24 September.
Ivan ‘Cash’ van Rooyen will remain the team’s head coach, despite a terrible run of results where they won just two of their Currie Cup matches and finished bottom of the table for the first time in over 20 years.
However, there has been a plethora of changes made to Van Rooyen’s support staff, with a new trio of assistant coaches joining the Lions.
Former Springbok lock Albert van den Berg has been confirmed as the team’s new lineouts and forwards coach, taking over from Warren Whiteley, who has departed to the Sharks. Van den Berg was impressive in a similar role at Griquas, helping improve the team’s forwards as they progressed to the Currie Cup semi-finals.
In arguably the most intruiging move, 2007 World Cup-winner Jaque Fourie has been appointed as the defence coach. Fourie has served in this role with the Western Force and under Gary Gold with the USA national team, before returning to South Africa to get involved with some of the local schools.
Former Bok assistant coach Ricardo Laubscher has been named as the Lions’ backline, attack and skills coach.The former Springbok back is the most experienced of the three new assistant coaches, having previously worked at the Sharks and under Heyneke Meyer at the Springboks and Stade Francais.
“These are exciting times for the Lions ahead of the URC competition,” CEO Rudolph Straueli said. “As we embark on our debut season in Europe, we look forward to exposing our players and coaching staff to what will surely be a competitive environment.
“We are particularly excited to welcome fresh ideas, experience and value our new coaches will bring to our set-up as we begin preparations before jetting off in a few weeks. We wish the players and management all the best as they begin their preparations.”
Straueli went on to encourage the Lions faithful to back their team ahead of the northern-hemisphere competition.
“It’s been a challenging year and we have taken a few learnings from those experiences. We now more than ever encourage our fans and supporters to get behind their team as we prepare to face tough opposition abroad and at home.”
The Lions kick off their URC campaign with four away fixtures against Zebre (24 September), Scarlets (1 October), Glasgow Warriors (9 October) and Ulster (15 October).
Photo: Gallo Images