Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
11 May 2022
8:28 am

OPINION: The Lions are being gutted again

Ross Roche

Vincent Tshituka is the latest high-profile player to leave the Joburg-based union.

Promising flank Vincent Tshituka of the Lions is on his way to the Sharks. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Lions once again find themselves being stripped of their best players, putting them in a very difficult position ahead of their second season in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

The Joburg-based team haven’t even finished their maiden campaign and have lost captain Burger Odendaal to English Premiership side Wasps, while star flank Vincent Tshituka revealed this week he had signed for the Sharks, sending shock waves through the union.

Major players, centre Wandisile Simelane and prop Carlu Sadie, have also been linked to the Bulls and Sharks respectively, leaving the team on the brink of a player crisis.

The Lions are no strangers to an exodus of players, which they suffered after their glorious Super Rugby run where they reached three consecutive finals from 2016 to 2018.

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Following that third final loss, against the Crusaders, the Lions lost no fewer than 30 players, including Springbok stars Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies among a host of others, while inspirational captain Warren Whiteley retired due to injury.

The Lions once again had to start rebuilding from the ground up and by the start of their first season in the URC had built a solid squad that has enjoyed a decent season.

At one stage they found themselves with just two wins from seven games, but have improved that to seven wins from 17 and should they win their final pool match it can be considered a good season for a team severely lacking in depth.

At the start of the competition the Lions’ most experienced senior players included Odendaal, one of the few quality signings the team have made in the past few years, along with Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer, who had both left and returned to the union.

The Lions’ biggest coup recently was luring wing Edwill van der Merwe from the Stormers to the union earlier this season, while Sharks scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba who had fallen down the pecking order there, also signed recently.

But with the major losses they have now suffered over the season and with few new signings on the horizon, it is looking to be a bleak few months for the union as they try to scramble to bring in reinforcements.