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DURBAN – After a disastrous Currie Cup campaign, the Lions have shaken up their coaching staff ahead of the United Rugby Championship and brought in three former Springboks in Jaque Fourie, Ricardo Loubscher and Albert van den Berg.
When the Lions were wobbling from one Currie Cup defeat to another — and failed to make the playoffs — there was speculation that coach Ivan ‘Cash’ Rooyen would be axed but he has survived the chop and will be supported by Van den Berg (forwards and lineouts coach), Loubscher (backline, attack and skills coach) and Jaque Fourie (defence coach).
Van den Berg, who won 51 caps for the Boks as a lanky lock between 1999 and 2007, has recently done an excellent job in helping Griquas to make the Currie Cup semi-finals while he has also coached extensively in Japan.
Loubscher is a vastly experienced backline coach, notably assisting Heyneke Meyer at the Boks between 2012 and 2015.
But it is the return of Fourie to Emirates Airline Park that will have Lions fans dancing in the streets. Fourie is a favoured son of the Lions, the union where he spent most of his career. Of course, he is also great Springbok, amassing 72 Tests and playing in three Rugby World Cups. Fourie returns to South Africa after a few seasons as defence coach for the Western Force in Perth.
Lions CEO Rudolf Straueli said: “These are exciting times for the Lions ahead of the URC competition. As we embark on our debut season in Europe, we look forward to exposing our players and coaching staff to what will surely be a competitive environment.
“We are particularly excited to welcome fresh ideas and the value our new coaches will bring to our setup as we begin preparations before jetting off in a few weeks.
“It’s been a challenging year and we have learned from those experiences. We now more than ever encourage our supporters to get behind their team as we prepare to face tough opposition abroad and at home.”
The Lions kick-off their European campaign with four away fixtures against Zebre (24 September), Scarlets (1 October), Glasgow Warriors (9 October) and Ulster (15 October).