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Lions team should stick together for a few seasons – Ntlabakanye

Franchise invests in future top players

Athenkosi Tsotsi Sports Reporter
Asenathi Ntlabakanye of the Sigma Lions during the Carling Currie Cup match between Airlink Pumas and Sigma Lions at Mbombela Stadium.
Asenathi Ntlabakanye of the Sigma Lions during the Carling Currie Cup match between Airlink Pumas and Sigma Lions at Mbombela Stadium.
Image: Dirk Kotze

Despite missing out on the knockout stages of the United Rugby Championship (URC) for a second successive season, the Lions had a season of growth where many young players stood out. 

Among the four South African franchises, the Lions can be considered the have-nots, as they don’t have the big budget of the Sharks, Bulls or attraction of the Stormers. The Johannesburg side can’t recruit Springboks internationals to be competitive. 

They instead invest in potential Springboks, players who they can mould into established players. This season we have seen the likes of Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Sanele Nohamba, Emmanuel Tshituka, Quan Horn and Francke Horn step up. 

Ntlabakanye, who grabbed his opportunity in the front row with both hands, believes that the Lions management should keep the current crop together for at least two more years to see where they can get.

“For us, it’s very exciting, it’s a young group, I think most of the guys have played together for a season, to stick together for a season or two would do good for the group,” Ntlabakanya said.

“The experience we got throughout the season is something we can learn from and to experience that as a group is something special. Hopefully, we have learnt something from that.

“The way the Lions have been playing in the last seven years or so has been attractive. We are trying to bring that style of rugby and you can see it in the tries this past weekend, there were some amazing tries scored but also we are letting in tries easily,” he said.

Last year the Lions lost Vincent Tshituka and Carlu Sadie to the Sharks while Wandisile Simelane joined the Bulls. With the talent the Lions have in their ranks, a mass exodus can be expected off-season.

Quizzed on the group’s potential being dismantled by suitors, Ntlabakanye said: “That’s not our part of the deal, we are just going on the field and playing, and focusing on what’s coming ahead of us. Those discussions we leave for the board, coaching staff and agents. We just focus on the games that are ahead of us. There’s still the Currie Cup to play for.”

The Lions will play their final URC game on Saturday against Zebre at Loftus Versfeld (1pm) while the Currie Cup side takes on the Blue Bulls at 6pm at the same venue.

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