Lions ready to evolve once more with Rainbow Cup on the horizon
JOHANNESBURG - RUGBY is not static – it is dynamic, and if the best is to be achieved, then its players, coaches, and teams must also continuously evolve.
Sometimes that evolution is piecemeal, bit-by-bit; other times, such as will be the chase this season, the change will be a major leap away from the status quo.
With Super Rugby no longer apart of the South African rugby landscape, the four franchises – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – will have to change the way they go about their business when they finally start a renewed life in the European-orientated Rainbow Cup from next month.
A careful balance between playing the conditions in the northern hemisphere and here in South Africa will therefore have to be considered.
It is a thought process that has already started taking root at the Lions, according to Ivan van Rooyen.
“It is a bit of both, to be honest (when considering the game plan),” said the head coach.
“I’ll be honest, we feel there is quite a bit of stuff that we can fix. Our initial focus is on fixing us, but in the back of our minds, in the team meetings, in the scenarios we are starting to train, there is obviously a more European mindset.
“We’ve changed our unit set-up for the week quite a bit,“Van
Rooyen continued, regarding the new continental challenge on the horizon.
“There is a lot more set-piece time, a lot more decisions from the set-piece.
“Structurally, our week has changed. In the training sessions these first two weeks, we have been focussing on us and we will probably in the next two weeks move a bit more focus to European options and conditions ... When we train and when we start going there, it won’t be brand new for them.”
Just as the game continues to change, so too must individuals, and Van Rooyen understands this. The coach admitted as much as he too has evolved in his role, and hopes to continue to do so for many years to come.
At 38, the Lions coach has many years and many lessons ahead, but remains committed to learning and putting the needs of his players first.
“It is a massive blessing,” Van Rooyen said with pride about his position as coach of the Lions.
“I am a different human being a year later. So many lessons learnt, so many faults, and many errors. In there somewhere some good decisions, better decisions, so I’ve had a big mindset to grow from day one. I understand the opportunity I am getting and I also understand the consequences.
“If the team is healthy and the team is doing well, then obviously for me it is better as an individual.
“I will always put the team first because if I am doing well, and
I am happy but the team is not happy, then we are not going to go anywhere.
“For me, it is to maximise the output of the coaches, the management, and the team every day, and if I can increase that output, then I am doing my job.
“Hopefully, in a year from now, everyone will be a little bit closer to their potential,“said Van Rooyen.
The Lions continue their evolution on Wednesday when they face Eastern Province in their second Kick-Off 2021 preparation match. They name their matchday squad for that encounter today.