Lions snare top Bulls coach

2011-01-11 08:24 Brenden Nel - SuperSport

Johannesburg - The Golden Lions are set to make a major coaching signing to bolster their resurgence as they lure Blue Bulls junior mentor Nico Serfontein to Ellis Park.

The behind the scenes battle seems to have been won by the Lions, who are said to have paid a transfer fee to the Blue Bulls to secure Serfontein’s services as their new Head of Junior structures and development.

The move is a significant step in the right direction for the Johannesburg union, who have opened their chequebooks in an attempt to claw their way back to the top of the Super Rugby heap this year.

Serfontein’s appointment is a long-term move, as he is one of the most accomplished junior coaches in the country and was unlucky not to be named SA under-20 coach last month after spending two seasons as assistant coach to Eric Sauls with the Baby Boks.

The former Rugby Union and League player has built up an impressive CV in his time at the Bulls, after being head-hunted by Heyneke Meyer to head up an impressive junior coaching set-up at Loftus Versfeld.

In his time at Loftus Versfeld, Serfontein has coached teams to 11 finals in nine years, taking seven trophies under his mentorship. This includes two Vodacom Cup titles, one National under-21 championship, two National under-21 championships and two National Under-19 championships.

Serfontein was given the tasks of grooming several of the Bulls Springboks that have made the senior squad the powerful force they are today, and will effectively serve as the second-in-charge to John Mitchell at the Lions, overseeing the implementation of junior structures to ensure a solid foundation is set at Ellis Park.

The move will come as a massive blow to the Bulls ahead of the start of the 2011 season, with them suddenly finding themselves without a coach to defend their Vodacom Cup title this season.

It will be interesting to see if they give that task to one of Serfontein’s long time assistants, Denzil Frans or Ricardo Loubscher, of if they elevate Under-19 coach Paul Anthony to the job. The alternative is to look outside Pretoria for a coach to fill the void.

While Serfontein was not available for comment, it is understood the opportunity was too good to resist, especially with Bulls head coach Frans Ludeke signed for another two years and opportunities for growth at Loftus few and far between.

This comes after Ashley Evert, another top young coach that Meyer recruited, left two seasons ago citing the same problem. Evert now runs a highly successful rugby academy in George.

Golden Lions CEO Manie Reyneke confirmed they were on the verge of making the signing, and said he was happy the negotiations took place in such a friendly manner.

“We are very happy that the Blue Bulls have decided to release Nico, and that the negotiations were handled in such a professional manner.

We see him as a massive part of our resurgence and believe he will play a big part in developing our talent to ensure we are at the top again,” Reyneke told

Bulls CEO Barend van Graan said he would prefer for all the paperwork to be finalised before commenting, but would release a statement later in the day.

Serfontein is set to sign his new contract later Tuesday, as soon as all the paperwork has been completed and is set to join the Lions later on in the day.