Lions draw short straw
The men from Joburg face a gruelling travel schedule, along with the other teams in their group
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.
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