A prop guarding a back. Celebrity is a strange thing... - Wes
Jonah Lomu gets a Bodyguard
(by Chris Rattue, from the Online Edition of the New Zealand Herald, May 3 1999)
Suspended Chiefs prop Lee Lidgard is in line for some unusual duty when the side land in South Africa this week - as Jonah Lomu's bodyguard.
The rampant Chiefs, with four consecutive Super 12 rugby wins, leave this evening for their final two matches, against the Stormers and Bulls, with still the remotest of hopes they can make the semifinals.
While Roger Randle, who was involved in a rape-allegation controversy with the Hurricanes in Durban two years ago, will make his first return to South Africa, the Chiefs are more concerned about the attention Lomu will attract from the public and media.
Lomu, whose leadership role and barnstorming form is credited as a major reason for the Chiefs' turnaround, attracts massive attention around the rugby world.
Chiefs manager Steve Gilbert said dealing with that attention was a priority as the side build up for Sunday morning's match in Cape Town.
"Lee is our head duty boy anyway, and he won't be much use to us in the first week. I'll assign him as Jonah's bodyguard," said Gilbert.
"There's not much you can do about the attention Jonah gets except maybe get a few players shielding him.
"I'm expecting a media scrum when we get there and what I'll probably do is say you've got him for one interview session then he needs to be left alone. "We haven't got a lot of time to prepare and we need Jonah fully involved."
Randle opted not to go with the Chiefs to South Africa last year because of the previous controversy, but the Chiefs management made it clear he would have to travel this year.
"He couldn't handle it mentally last year but it was part of the deal that he was prepared to travel in future," said Gilbert. "Talking to some of the media in South Africa last year, I was quite surprised to find the whole thing had died down. Getting Jonah through all the attention is more of a concern."
The Chiefs leave today without injured No 8 Deon Muir and fullback Todd Miller.
But Royce Willis, who played 60 minutes for his Taupiri club on Saturday, Danny Lee, John Akurangi and captain Michael Collins have all been declared fit.
Former New Zealand under-19 centre Grant McQuoid, who prefers fullback but also plays wing, will travel along with prop David Briggs, who will go for just the first week because of Lidgard's suspension.
Lidgard was cited for punching at a ruck in Friday night's brilliant 32-19 win over the Sharks in Hamilton.
Judicial chairman Bruce Squire's report stated: "... Lidgard did not have a particularly good record so far as discipline went and had appeared before ... for foul play. Nonetheless, he had not been in trouble for the last two years and there had appeared to have been a general improvement."
Dylan Mika appeared after being sent off by Stuart Dickinson for a late and dangerous tackle.
But the committee ruled that while the tackle may have been dangerous, it may not have been late "in the circumstances" and was not malicious. They noted Mika had tried to avoid causing injury and had a previously unblemished record, and deemed the ordering off sufficient.
Lomu also appeared on a late and dangerous tackle charge, but no action was taken.