Lions players warming. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Lions players warming. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

’It is extremely frustrating’, says Lions coach after another Currie Cup loss

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published Jul 31, 2021

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The Lions find themselves in a hole, digging ever deeper, the hope of turning their season around growing ever dimmer.

It has been an extremely frustrating few weeks for the Joburg-based side, and their recent lack of form, composure and discipline was punctuated yet again in their 36-33 loss to the Pumas on Friday night at Emirates Airline Park.

With the power of hindsight, one could argue that the Lions should not have lost the encounter. During the first half, the hosts showed more than enough to ensure victory. They enjoyed a dominant scrum, rumbled up nicely through their forwards, attacked the gainline with intent, and were slightly better on defence.

They led at half-time 21-10, and although they fluffed a few more chances to extend that lead, all indications pointed to a second victory in the Currie Cup. But, a second half blitz by the Pumas in the second half which saw the visitors score three unanswered tries in 15 minutes undid all that good work.

Any confidence they built up in the first stanza was shattered, and for a team so battered mentality, it took the Lions far too long to regroup, as assessed by coach Ivan van Rooyen after the match.

Said Van Rooyen: "It is extremely frustrating. "It feels," he continued, "at the moment that when we lose control, it takes us far too long to bounce back mentally and physically. It was a match of two halves. We had more than enough opportunities."

As the onslaught continued in the second half, the Pumas overturning an 11 point deficit to lead by 15 point in the final quarter, a degree of desperation and individualism in play became apparent. This notion, however, was strongly rebuffed by Van Rooyen, who insisted that the team became victims of poor decision-making.

"I don't think it is a situation of players trying to be too individual,"said Van Rooyen, "but rather that the individual mistakes the players are making are so costly that it is creating that sense. You can see how desperate the guys are to win but I don't think it is 15 individual players who are trying to play on their own. Maybe, because they are trying so hard, it is coming off like that. I think it's all to do with their decision-making and errors.

Despite the loss, Van Rooyen was able to point out a handful of positives, a difficult endevut that will surely not placate the team's supporters.

"Let's start with the positives - our scrum and maul was good, and it is a platform that we can work off of," Van Rooyen pointed out.

"We had moments in our attack where we did a lot of good things. I think we stopped the momentum better on defence, but it is not good enough that they scored a try off of a set-piece against us. The rucks and clearing also aren't good enough and we will need an 80 minute performance to get the result.

"We can see the confidence of the guys is bruised, and unfortunately there are players who are learning some tough lessons. At this level,if you make too many mistakes, then it simply isn't good enough."

It doesn't get easier this up-comming fortnight for Van Rooyen's charges, and as revealed by Van Rooyen, they have much to rectify. In the coming matches they face the Griquas away, the a short turnaround to play against the Free State Cheetahs and Bulls. The coach explained that his selection for those matches might take on a different form to negate the current failings, but that the squad have and will be working hard to rectify the situation.

His choices are limited though as no player has really covered themselves in glory, and they - both young and old - must now take an equal amount of responsibility to stop the rot.

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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