Lions (Super rugby franchise)
teamname = Lions
South African Rugby Union
Johannesburg, South Africa
founded = 1996
ground = Ellis Park
capacity = 59,611
season = 2007
position = 12th
url = www.lionsrugby.co.zaThe Lions, known as the Cats through the 2006 season, are a
South African rugby unionfranchise that competes in the Super Rugby competition. They have not achieved great success in this competition, finishing at the bottom of the table three times (in 1998, 2003 and 2004). However, they have managed to reach the semifinal stage twice (in 2000 and 2001). The current team captain is Ernst Joubert, who replaced André Pretoriusearly in the 2007 season.
The Lions play in a red and white strip. For a time, the team faced relegation from the Super 14 after the
Southern Spearswon a court ruling that they be included in the competition in place of the lowest ranked South African team in the 2006 competition. [http://www.pretorianews.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3376189] However, the Spears and the country's national federation, the South African Rugby Union, reached a settlement of their legal case. By the terms of the settlement, announced on 16 November 2006, the financially troubled Spears abandoned their case, ensuring the Lions a place in the competition for the foreseeable future. [cite web| work=Planet Rugby | title=Spears abandon their Super conquest|url=http://www.planet-rugby.com/Teams/South_Africa/story_55239.shtml | date=2006-11-16 | accessdate=2006-11-22]
Super 12was launched in 1996, both Australia and New Zealand created franchise-based models for their teams in the new tournament. South Africa however, used the previous seasons Currie Cupto determine what provinces would be promoted to the new international tournament. The Transvaal Rugby Union were promoted in the first ever season, winning three of their 11 fixtures, finishing in 10th position on the end of season ladder, above the Canterbury Crusaders and the Western Province.
Transvaal were again promoted to the Super 12 for the 1997 season, and played under the title of the Gauteng Lions. The Lions' season was a lot more successful than their results in the inaugural season. The Lions won and lost five matches, and drawing one, to finish in fifth place overall on the end of season table, two points behind the fourth-placed Natal Sharks, narrowly missing out on a place in the finals.
For the 1998 season SA Rugby changed the Currie Cup qualification process for the Super 12, following Australia and New Zealand by forming provincial franchises. The Cats, or Golden Cats were established as one of the four new franchises, and were centered around the
Golden Lions, as well as the Leopards and Pumas, as well as drawing from the Free State, Griffons and Griquas. The Cats home ground was to be Ellis Park.
The Cats did not make the finals in their first two seasons, but the appointment of former New Zealand coach
Laurie Mainsfor the 2000 season signalled a change in fortunes. After defeating the Bulls in Pretoriain the opening round, they also defeated the Stormersat home in round two. However, the Cats' good fortunes soon went sour as they fell to four straight losses, even going down 64-0 to the Brumbies. The losing streak was snapped when the Cats pulled off a one-point victory over the Sharks in Durban. Following a bye, the Cats stormed through the remainder of the season undefeated to finish in fourth position, their best finish yet, as well as qualifying for a semi-final.
The semi-final was played at the Brumbies' home ground in
Canberra, with the homeside winning 28-3 to knock the Cats out of the finals. The 2001 Super 12 seasonstarted off in a positive style for the Cats; defeating the Stormers 29-24, and then crushing the Highlanders 56-21, as well as narrowly losing a reply of last season's semi-final against the Brumbies 19-17. The Cats qualified for the finals again, finishing in third place, another bettering last season's fourth. However they were again knocked out in the semi-finals, losing 30-12, this time to the Sharks. The Cats did not qualify for the finals the next few seasons. Then the Super 12 was expanded into the Super 14for the 2006 season, with the addition of two new teams; the Central Cheetahsand the Western Force. The Cats finished in 13th place overall.
8 September 2006, the Golden Lions Rugby Union, the company that operates both the Golden Lions and the Cats, announced that the team would be known in the future as the Lions, and unveiled a new logo. [cite web| work=Planet Rugby | title=From Cats to Lions ... the new look|url=http://www.planet-rugby.com/Tournaments/Super_12/story_53634.shtml | date=2006-09-08 | accessdate=2006-09-12] [cite web| work=Golden Lions Rugby Union | title=Golden Lions Rugby Union announces new Lions International Brand|url=http://www.lionsrugby.co.za/newsdetail.asp?NewsID=238 | date=2006-09-08 | accessdate=2007-01-13]
They are based in
Johannesburg, and have always been centred around the Lions union (Johannesburg), drawing players from that union since the inception of the competition as Super 12 in 1996. Currently, they also draw players from the Leopards (North West) and Pumas ( Mpumalanga) unions. Through 2005, the Cats drew from the two unions based in Free State—the Free State Cheetahs( Bloemfontein) and Griffons ( Welkom)—and the Griquas ( Northern Cape), but that arrangement ended when the Central Cheetahsbecame South Africa's new Super 14 franchise.
The Cheetahs now draw their players from Free State, Griffons and Griquas, while the Leopards and Pumas were moved from the franchise area of the Bulls to that of the Cats. Prior to 1998, the Cats (more accurately, the Golden Lions) competed in the then-Super 12 as Transvaal, as South Africa then sent its top four unions to the Super 12 instead of franchises, and Transvaal qualified both years.
The Lions' home ground is at the Coca-Cola stadium formly known as Ellis Park Stadium, usually known as just Ellis Park. The stadium is in Johannesburg. Ellis Park hosted a number of matches at the
1995 Rugby World Cup, including the final, which was played out between the All Blacksand South Africa, which saw South Africa win the William Webb Ellis Cupin an emotional final.
The following is a list of Lions players for the 2008 season.cite web| url= http://www.lionsrugby.co.za/dynamicnews.asp?News_ID=213 |title=Lions: Squad Announcement |publisher=lionsrugby.co.za |accessdate=2008-02-14]
* [http://www.catsrugby.co.za/ CatsRugby.co.za]
* [http://www.lionsrugby.co.za/home.asp lionsrugby.co.za]
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