TODAY |

Opinion: Lions' Latin layoff the daftest decision in sport

The Lions' decision to rest 20 of their frontline players for the trip to Buenos Aires was proven to be one of the daftest yesterday morning, relinquishing the number one seed for the Super Rugby playoffs in the process.

Daft, dubious, call it what you like, the 'tanking' of the game theory hasn't gained traction because to tank generally means a favourable outcome lies around the corner.

Without a conspirator’s hat on and taking Johan Ackermann's selection at face value, what was he thinking?

Top spot was his, and an arguably easier quarterfinal against the Sharks who they pumped 37-10 two weeks back. Now they host the Crusaders who don't have too many issues with long haul travel.

A few injuries aside, Kieran Read's side will be hurting and surely won’t flop again like they did on Saturday.

Last weekend, Ackermann played his strongest team against the Kings and walloped them. Goodo, so has everyone else. THIS was the time to rotate, rest, rejuvenate and risk.

True, the Highlanders rested a handful of their key International players after the June window but that was against the same Kings, not the Jaguares who have been competitive at home against African opponents to the tune of two wins against and a five point losing margin being the biggest before yesterday.

By the way, wholesale rotation doesn’t work. Under the guise of squad competition, it's giving the top side a rest not putting them under pressure for their positions.

And you do it when you've sealed the deal, not one win away with four Kiwi teams mathematically breathing down your neck.

Quite simply, resting 20 players is an arrogant move and so 2007 when the All Blacks tried to make rugby a 30 man game, not 22.

'Wholesale rotation does not work'

Speaking of the All Blacks, the touring party of 1992 commented on the time warp they entered when they arrived in South Africa to renew rivalries after the apartheid.

New Zealanders, not known for their stylish hair or cutting edge fashion themselves couldn’t believe some of the antique haircuts they encountered. This wasn’t the pot calling anything black if you saw Pieter Hendriks' mullet fluttering in the wind.

On the field yesterday morning was another time warp that we, as New Zealanders could've warned about; wholesale rotation does not work.

We have deep psychological scars because of it and have amended our approach accordingly. It is rare for Steve Hansen to make a lot of changes and there was considerable surprise for the third Test against Wales.

This opinion could be proven horribly wrong after next week if the Lions’ fresh legs are too much for the Crusaders. Bravo, the gamble kind of came off for one round.

If said scenario unfolded, the next game could be the Chiefs or Highlanders. Two Kiwi teams in a row is a tough ask, even in Johannesburg. One Kiwi team in the final is looking likely too.

'Is there something at play behind the scenes?'

The playoff possibilities are too varied to say whether weeks down the track the Lions made the smartest decision in sporting history but if they win and the Hurricanes charge on through, they've lost millions upon millions in gate revenue.

They haven't foxed for a better draw. On TV screens across the Super Rugby countries, the Kiwi teams have led the way in style and substance and they meet one straight away.

If anyone is pissed, it's the Sharks who probably hate flying across the world too and would fancy beating the Lions more than the Canes.

With the conspirator's hat on now, is there something at play behind the scenes whether it be SANZAR, SARU, the broadcasters, the South African Government?

Or is it just one of the daftest decisions in world sport?

A final in Johannesburg may not have done wonders for the competition’s credibility after recent weeks but neither has wholesale rotation.


More From