Geoffrey Toyana has been removed as Lions head coach and redeployed as High Performance Coach after two tough seasons in which the franchise won no silverware. Toyana, who was heavily touted to take over from Russell Domingo as national head coach earlier this summer, won four trophies in his first three seasons in charge, but the closet has been barren since, as Lions have faced immense pressure on and off the field.
Their squad was torn apart by a match-fixing scandal in the 2015-16 summer, when seven players were found guilty of conspiring to fix matches in the domestic twenty-over competition. Five of those players - Alviro Petersen, Thami Tsolekile, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Jean Symes and Pumi Matshikwe - were Lions players. In addition to that, several international players, including Chris Morris, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma moved to other franchises, making it difficult for the Lions to rebuild.
The Lions finished last in the first-class competition and second-last in the one-day and T20 tournaments, failing to reach the semi-finals in both. Last summer, they were second-last in the first-class and List A competitions, and third in the T20 tournament. They last won a trophy in the 2015-16 summer, but Toyana has overseen several players' pathway to national colours.
Under his watch, de Kock, Morris, Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Stephen Cook, Aaron Phangiso, Dwaine Pretorius, Wiaan Mulder, Mangaliso Mosehle and Hardus Viljoen earned South African caps, which speaks of Toyana's ability to see and nurture talent. For that reason, he will be retained at the Lions in a different capacity.
"Whilst results have not been favourable in the past season, we remain confident as a board that this franchise is capable of becoming the stronghold in domestic cricket, given the players we have produced and considering the feeder system in Gauteng Cricket Board and North West Cricket. It is in this light that we have reached an agreement to use Geoffrey's expertise in another area under the Lions Cricket umbrella," Dr Monyane Nkagisang, chairman of Lions cricket, said.
ESPNcricinfo understands that Toyana had applied for the position of head coach at the Warriors, but lost out to current stand-in coach Rivash Gobind, who took the Warriors to the final of the one-day and T20 tournaments. Toyana also missed out on being appointed Ottis Gibson's assistant, after the job was given to Malibongwe Maketa, who was at the Warriors.
This is the second time a South African franchise coach has been appointed in an umbrella role after underperformance. In late 2016, Paul Adams, who was Cobras coach, faced a player mutiny after complaints over his coaching style, and was made high performance manager. He was replaced by Ashwell Prince.
The Lions have yet to advertise for a new head coach, but will do so in due course. Enoch Nkwe, a former Lions player who is currently the national women's team assistant coach, is believed to be in the running.