Lions loosies impressing coach Ivan van Rooyen
JOHANNESBURG - Sometimes there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned try-fest.
Encounters that are tight and nail-biting have their merits, of course, but without any real consequences to a greater, competitive picture, both the Lions and the Sharks gave it the full beans on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park.
They dished up an entertaining encounter, full of running and risk-taking, and as far as expressing themselves goes, both sets of coaches should be pleased with their teams.
Their willingness to run from any quarter of the field, and holding onto the ball – territorial kicking be damned – resulted in 12 tries being scored, six apiece.
A handful of them were absolute pearlers, especially in the first half, and exhibited a full array of handing skills and off-loading.
It was exciting to watch, and gave a taste to supporters and coaching staff alike what they can expect if their players are given the instruction and license to play a running game.
Although the defences of both sides suffered as a result, and will not have impressed either coach, the Lions’ Ivan van Rooyen should be happy with several other aspects of their game.
The scrum, with Springbok Ruan Dreyer at loosehead, stood up pretty well, with Van Rooyen saying of the prop: “We chucked him in there on (Saturday) night to have a look and I think he can be proud of his performance.”
The other set-pieces mostly went to plan, the line-out once again creating a perfect platform to maul from. Here too, however, the defence was a bit shaky, and will require some tightening up in the coming weeks to stop the opposition from employing their own drives to the tryline.
Elsewhere up front, the loose trio of Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka and MJ Pelser worked well together, Horn and Pelser making huge strides forward in their own game, while Tshituka continues to prove that he is a class player.
“I think as a combination they really played well,” said Van Rooyen of his loosies after the match.
“The youngest one was 21, and the oldest one was 23, and I think that is the exciting part.
“All four of them (including replacement Sibusiso Sangweni) played really well in their own department. I think MJ was special on the ground, Vincent's work-rate and what he brings for us physically was great. Francke's soft skills outside on attack and defence is really good, ’Sbu brings a massive work-rate and for him to make that difference is pretty special.”
Returning captain and flyhalf Elton Jantjies, meanwhile, marshalled his backline in characteristic fashion, unleashing the power of Burger Odendaal, and the pace of Wandisile Simelane, the young and impressive Ngia Selenge, Courtnall Skosan and Tiaan Swanepoel to run themselves ragged.
There is no question that there would have been some stiff muscles yesterday morning in the Lions camp, especially in the backs.
One major concern for Van Rooyen to think on will be the discipline.
For a second match in a row a Lions players was binned – this time Carlu Sadie – for repeated infringements, and a stern talking to with the whole squad will no doubt be had this week regarding that particular problem.
The Lions next face the Stormers on Saturday, their final opportunity to give some players a proper run before the business of the Rainbow Cup begins.