Lions draw short straw

The men from Joburg face a gru­elling travel sched­ule, along with the other teams in their group

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF sports@city­press.co.za

The inherent un­fair­ness of the new Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion, which starts in 12 days’ time, be­comes starkly ap­par­ent when one ex­am­ines the fix­tures.

With the South­ern Kings, the Ar­gentina Jaguares and the Ja­pan Sun­wolves hav­ing been added to the mix, the tour­na­ment now con­sists of 18 teams.

Or­gan­is­ers have come up with a com­plex sys­tem to fit in four con­ti­nents, three is­lands and many time zones cov­er­ing the bot­tom half of the globe.

One of the teams who have drawn the short straw are Cur­rie Cup cham­pi­ons the Lions.

Jo­han­nes­burg’s team (this year the city’s sky­line will be de­picted on their jer­seys) have to start with what could fairly be called a trip from hell.

The Lions’ open­ing game will be against the Sun­wolves in Tokyo on Satur­day, Fe­bru­ary 27, fol­lowed by an­other long flight across the Pa­cific to face the Chiefs on New Zealand’s north is­land, fol­lowed by the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, the High­landers, on the south is­land.

War­ren White­ley’s men will then have seven days in which to travel home and shake off the jet lag be­fore tak­ing on the Chee­tahs at Emi­rates Park.

It is the kind of draw that could blow a team out of con­tention be­fore the tour­na­ment has even got un­der way.

The Lions are in the South African Group, Africa Con­fer­ence 2, along with the Sharks, the Kings and the Jaguares.

This means they have to play home and away against the three teams in their group and deal with a sin­gle match against the teams in Africa Con­fer­ence 1 – the Chee­tahs, Bulls, Storm­ers and Sun­wolves.

But here’s the rub … the Lions (and the three other teams in their group) have to play all five of New Zealand’s teams: the High­landers, Chiefs, Cru­saders, Blues and Hur­ri­canes.

Against this, the teams in the other South African sec­tion play all the Aus­tralian sides, and no New Zealand sides, which, go­ing by past records and with the bonus of less travel, is clearly an eas­ier task.

PHOTO: CARL FOURIE / GALLO IM­AGES

TOUGH CALL Harold Vorster and his Lions team-mates have a lot of trav­el­ling to do dur­ing Su­per Rugby, and will also have to play all the New Zealand teams

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