Mind Games: It’s one for all and all for one in the Lions pack

2015-04-19 15:00

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There’s something about the Lions that reminds me of Robert Aldrich’s classic war film about a bunch of misfits who make good.

The Dirty Dozen, featuring rugged macho types, tells the story of a bunch of toughs – okay, hardened criminals – given a last chance at redemption by pulling off a suicide mission.

Their particular skills are what’s needed to pull off the risky job and they’re made to understand that while failure’s a possibility, success will set them free.

The bunch of renegades have to learn to operate as a team to prove their worth and, by so doing, gain another chance in life.

Now I’m not suggesting that the Lions are a collection of rogues.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth because they are an impressive and likable team of young men.

But the scenario of being in a difficult situation with one last chance to put it right fits perfectly.

The Lions are an eclectic group drawn from all sectors of the rugby spectrum.

Some are dropped fruit discarded in the lush orchards of the big unions, others have suffered blemishes (through injuries) that counted against them in the selection process. Still others have ripened in faraway places and might never have been picked had it not been for the Lions.

From captain Warren Whiteley to the little gamecock of a scrum half Faf de Klerk, the Lions do not possess a single player on the SA Rugby Union’s A-list of Springbok players.

Fly half Elton Jantjies has been to the Stormers and Japan as he boosted a stalling career.

Lionel Mapoe came out of Port Elizabeth and made stops, via the SA Under-20 and Sevens’ sides, at the Cheetahs and the Bulls before finding a home at Emirates Airline Park (previously Ellis Park) and hooker Robbie Coetzee is a Bulls discard.

Whiteley, Marnitz Boshoff and prop Julian Redelinghuys have played bit parts in the Springbok cast on the back of their performances for the Lions.

Coach Johan Ackermann has developed a team that has won wide popularity because of the Lions’ willingness to “have a go”.

Andries Coetzee came from Middelburg, Jaco Kriel from Standerton, Ruan Combrinck from Vryheid via Michaelhouse and Stellenbosch, Boshoff from Nelspruit via the Bulls and Griquas, Anthony Volmink from Bredasdorp and Courtnall Skosan from Brackenfell and Tukkies.

Franco Mostert came from Welkom, via Tukkies and the Bulls, Howard Mnisi was plucked out of the Eastern Cape via Standerton and Akker van der Merwe from George via the Eagles, the Pukke and the Leopards.

Warwick Tecklenburg, one of the stars of the season, is from White River. He has the Pumas, Valke and Tukkies on his CV before he was let go by the Bulls.

Redelinghuys has returned home after failing to make a mark at the Sharks while the likes of Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx and Derick Minnie are home-grown and revelling in Johannesburg’s return to the big league after the blip of being taken out of Super Rugby.

The fact that there isn’t even a line-up of players and their biographies on the Lions’ website perhaps says it all about Whiteley’s men. It’s not about individuals but about the team – one for all and all for one.

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