Lions ready to 'restructure' for move north
The Lions Rugby Company is set to ‘restructure’ their coaching team, but Chief Executive Officer Rudolf Straeuli dismissed rumours that he will return as an on-field coach.
Reports of changes to the Lions’ coaching setup has been gushing from the rumour wellspring for a few weeks now, with suggestions that head coach Ivan van Rooyen will be shown the exit door.
Straeuli, who functions as both CEO and the Director of Rugby, confirmed to @rugby365com that there will be some restructuring.
However, he said the ‘restructuring’ is due to the many competition structure changes and the move to the United Rugby Championship in the Northern Hemisphere.
“I will hopefully be able to confirm those changes in due course,” Straeuli told this website, adding that it would not be appropriate to speculate in the media.
“The Currie Cup competition [which runs to its conclusion early next month] will restart in January – while the URC is still ongoing.
“It is impractical to have one set of coaches running teams for two competitions,” the Lions boss added.
The reports of the coaching changes and the rumours of Straeuli’s return to coaching were heightened by the team enduring one of its worst seasons in recent years.
The Lions have won just two matches in the 2021 Currie Cup season – beating Western Province 38-32 and Griquas 45-42 – also drawing 44-all with the Cheetahs. They also got points for two cancelled matches.
Six defeats later and the men from Johannesburg are stuck at the bottom of the Currie Cup standings – below the Cheetahs, who were kicked out of Europe, and the two ‘minnows’, Griquas and the Pumas.
What the role of current coach Ivan van Rooyen will be after the restructuring also remains uncertain.
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Van Rooyen said everything he is doing is “team orientated” and “team first”.
“We are all entering negotiation stages,” he said of the uncertainty around the coaching staff.
“Those decisions and discussions are taking place at a higher [boardroom] level,” he said, adding that he will look to get the team ready for their fifth game in 15 days – against the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Van Rooyen joined the Lions as a Strength and Conditioning coach in 2009 and was part of the franchise’s successful era – when they reached three successive Super Rugby finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
He was promoted to head coach after Swys de Bruin, the successor to Johan Ackermann, retired due to stress-related health issues.
However, the Lions have gone into decline during Van Rooyen’s tenure – a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 restrictions and subsequent cash crunch in the game.