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The Lions' king





SuperWrap 15, 2017

Dawn breaks over the African Pride Lands and a whole kingdom is gathered in reverent silence to witness a spectacle unfold.

The year was 1993 and from all corners of the hemisphere eyes fixed on the original Lion King, Francois Pienaar, atop Pride Rock. He triumphantly hoists the Super 10 trophy into the air and - from Auckland to Apia, Sydney to Sannieshof – everyone bowed to their ruler and applauded the pure majesty of the moment.

This was the world as it should be. All of nature was bursting with hope and optimism.

Nothing this good could last forever, of course, but no-one present would have been able to predict the dark times that would befall the kingdom in the decades to come.

The signs were there, though.

“Look, everything the light touches is our kingdom,” the king would boast, telling the young prince that his time would come to rule over it all. He was far too confident.

“Everything the light touches... But what about that shadowy place?” the prince asked, looking at the darkness on the horizon, out beyond the Jukskei river. “That is beyond our borders,” the king warned. “You must never go there!”

It was a challenge the youngster couldn’t resist, and scavengers could only dream of.

Blinded by a sense of invincibility the elders allowed their heirs to wander too far from the safety of amateurism, wholly unprepared for a world in which loyalty alone could no longer keep the pride intact.

What followed was disaster. It was in the shadows on the far side of the river that a blue wildebeest stampede trampled the king and with that, crushed the hopes and dreams of every lion alive. The promise of a lasting kingdom now mere ashes on a valley floor.

Badly wounded and ridden with guilt, the young cub was forced into exile, ushered by the hyenic laughter so characteristic of a conceited Bulls fan. The Pride Lands of Super Rugby that it once ruled so undisputedly was now forbidden ground.

But nothing that bad could last forever either.

The young cub was alone in the wilderness. Gone was the love and guidance he once mistook for something he had a right to.

He was forced by circumstance to stoop to the level of warthogs and meerkats just to have some company, but instead of it being rock-bottom, that stoop turned out to be quite serendipitous. Nothing beats loyalty, even if you have to drop your standards dramatically to acquire it.

This new pride was nothing to be proud of, but they were tight – and steadily our young cub learned how to enjoy himself again. He also started growing, unbeknown to his enemies.

Those were the days. Summer became winter and then summer again, all met with the carefree frivolity of youth. No responsibilities, no expectations.

But a lion is not born to live a life that doesn’t matter.

It was the prophet of the old Pride Lands, Johan Ackermann, who appeared unexpectedly one starlit night to remind our prince about his destiny. The prophet was little more than a faint memory from a bygone era, but our young lion followed him to a pond where he was asked to take a hard look at his reflection.

Long he stood and stared, failing to believe that it was not just his own rash self he was looking at. There was something more looking back at him.

Then came a voice from the night sky, breaking through from a time when everything had reason and order. “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, young one. You are more than what you have become. You must take your rightful place,” the old king told him.

It was time to return to the Pride Lands, a place that used to be lush and green but was now – thanks to administrators and their clever plans – completely ruined. The barren landscape was scattered with the starving remnants of the great beasts of the past.

The young lion, now resembling the kings of old, dispatched his enemies with ease and with him came renewal. It was as if all the land waited just for his return to startle back into life.

The year is 2017. Dawn breaks over the African Pride Lands. All the animals of the kingdom are gathered in reverent silence to watch the spectacle that is about to unfold.

Two Saturday’s from now, the new Lion King, Jaco Kriel, will stand atop Pride Rock and triumphantly hoist the Super Rugby trophy into the air. The moment will be majestic and all the hemisphere will bow to their new ruler.

It can be no different. It's written in the stars. It is the circle of life.

Here is our team of the year, based purely on selections into our weekly teams throughout the season.

Bok Barometer for 2017:
15. SP Marais (Stormers), 14. Kobus van Wyk (Sharks), 13. Lukanyo Am (Sharks), 12. Harold Vorster (Lions), 11. Makazole Mapimpi (Kings), 10. Lionel Cronje (Kings), 9. Cobus Reinach (Sharks), 8. Warren Whiteley (Lions), 7. Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks), 6. Jaco Kriel (Lions), 5. Franco Mostert (Lions), 4. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 3. Ruan Dreyer (Lions), 2. Malcolm Marx (Lions), 1. Ox Nche (Cheetahs).

TRY OF THE SEASON

As always there would be a lot of contenders at the end of a Super Rugby season, but this year we were unanimous in our choice. Nothing we saw matched this:

BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA


And they couldn't even blame Suzy for this one.

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Other than that Combrinck effort at the end, this is about right.

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I don't think Bulls would mind that too much, to be honest. Any change is good at this stage.

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Written last week. Let's just hope @RoomYs doesn't tweet anything about the semifinals.

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THE WEEK THAT WAS

Lion Laager

Cheetahs sponsor Toyota treated some local journalists to a trip down to Bloemfontein last week for the launch of their academy.

Included in the fun of the day was a visit to a local game reserve which the owner boasted has the best security system in Africa.

The reason? Well, his house is surrounded by a Lion den – an actual pen that allows Lions to roam around the house in the enclosure, ensuring he never needs any burglar bars, or even an alarm system.

Let's hope the Lions' defence is just as formidable on Saturday.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Finally, the best news of the week came from the Brumbies, as Christian Lealiifano returned to the field for the team in their playoff against the Hurricanes.

For those who can’t remember, Lealiifano was diagnosed with cancer, and now – just a year later – he returned to the field in what is an unbelievable story of hope and courage.

"To think that 12 months ago [Lealiifano] was in hospital with tubes in him, getting chemotherapy... that's the thing, [the game] was bigger than rugby," said Brumbies prop Scott Sio.

"Christian has alluded to the fact that rugby is such a small part of our lives. I guess things get put in perspective.

"He reiterated to us [after the game] that everyone is saying he's the inspiration, but he said he's been so inspired by us and the support we've given him.

"That's really got us up after this loss. He draws a lot of inspiration from the support we've given him."

The rest of the rugby world, and all of us here at SuperSport salute him as well.

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That is it from us for the year. From all of us here at the SuperWrap desk, we hope you enjoyed the season with us. Have fun during the three remaining Finals Series games, and let's hope the best team wins.

Same time, same place next year?


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