New Lions coach's unfinished job
It was with much fanfare that the Lions Rugby Company announced their new coaching panel, ahead of the inaugural United Rugby Championship – starting later this month.
Head coach Ivan Rooyen expressed his ‘excitement’ with the addition of the experience of Albert van den Berg (forwards and line-outs), Ricardo Loubscher (backline, attack and skills), and Jaque Fourie (defence).
Van den Berg joins the team from the Griquas, while Loubscher is a former Springbok assistant coach.
Fourie was previously the defence coach at the Western Force and the United States national team.
It was with renewed vigour that van Rooyen was looking forward to the challenge in Europe – following a barren Currie Cup campaign that yielded just two wins and saw them finish last in the seven-team competition.
However, while Van Rooyen and his new coaching panel approach the new venture in Europe with vigour, one member of the staff has some unfinished business on the domestic stage.
Van den Berg is involved in Griquas’ Currie Cup campaign and will travel with the Kimberley outfit to Durban to take on the Sharks in the Currie Cup semifinal on Saturday.
While being ‘excited’ being part of the Lions set-up going forward, Van den Berg confirmed that his job is not done yet in Kimberley.
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“We still have a semifinal [against the Sharks] and if all goes according to plan we play in the Final,” the 51-times capped former Springbok lock said.
“We’re hoping that Western Province beat the Bulls [in the other semifinal] and then we will be back in Kimberley for the Final,” he quipped.
Should Griquas achieve the improbable and reach the Final September 11), there will be no break for the 2007 World Cup-winning lock.
He will head straight to Europe with the Lions for the start of the United Rugby Championship.
The Lions start their campaign against Italian franchise Zebre in Parma on September 24, followed by encounters with Scarlets (Llanelli, October 1), Warriors (Glasgow, October 9) and Ulster (Belfast, October 15).
“Going into the URC is very exciting,” the lock with more than 300 first-class games to his credit said.
“It is something that everyone is looking forward to,” he said, adding that he hopes to provide the players with the “necessary tools” to uplift their skills.
“As a collective, a team, we will look to perform better,” he said of the struggling Lions outfit.