Adam Wakefield

Lions future in supporters’ hands

With the Southern Kings primed to take their place in the Super 15 next year, the team they are replacing, the Lions (and their primary union the Golden Lions) are having another solid season in the Currie Cup. With the Springboks absent, the result pendulum has been rather unpredictable which has made for an exciting competition. Considering the dreary form of the national team, a bit of provincial rivalry is always a safe haven of 15-man distraction.

To say the Lions have gone through some turmoil this year would be an understatement, as reports of financial problems, problems within the coaching staff and injuries have all left Golden Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk acquiring the skills of a fire-fighter.

His steady hand on the media front since ascending to the throne has helped Lions fans (myself being one) keep some perspective while the uncertainty swirling around the question of Super Rugby participation dragged on and on.

A friend from Australia said I must be angry with the Lions exclusion from Super rugby, with my reply being that I had been prepared for it for some time. Other Lions fans would answer that question differently perhaps, since optimism has been in short supply.

The merits of the decision to exclude the Lions is another matter but following Saru’s initial error years ago of giving the new team to Australia when Super Rugby was expanded, it all left a taste of inevitability considering the political ramifications of the Kings’ participation in the Super 15.

The Golden Lions, and before them Transvaal, is a union with a proud history, founded in 1889, and though at the moment there appears to be more Sharks fans willing to trek to Ellis Park (aka the Coke Tin) when their team rolls into town, the Currie Cup final last year proved there is a deep-rooted appreciation of the White and Red in this part of South Africa.

Considering all the misery the union, its players and fans have endured, the Currie Cup final was a celebration, if not a wake, of one of the great unions in South African rugby.

A potential player exodus looms as the four forsemen of the financial apocalypse slowly canter to New Doornfontein. If the Golden Lions and Lions are to survive, and this isn’t the first time they have faced extinction considering the financial problems experienced during the 1980s following the redevelopment of Ellis Park, it is within the hearts, minds and marching feet of fans (as well as the administrators) that the future of this rugby institution lies.

The future is precarious, no doubt.