Five lessons we learnt from the Lions’ clash against the Stormers
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JOHANNESBURG – The Lions and Stormers dished up a thrilling encounter in their Rainbow Cup South Africa clash on Saturday. Technically, it might not have been the most impressive of games, but it certainly made up for it in try-scoring action, and in the entertainment stakes.
Here, we look at five lessons we learnt from the Round 3 encounter at Emirates Airline Park.
1 Never too young
It’s maybe unfair to harp on about this, but the Lions are short at flyhalf, and before the game there was a major concern that it would haunt them during this encounter.
Jordan Hendrikse, however, had other ideas and the 19-year-old had a stellar outing, even winning the Man of the Match award. The pivot commanded his backline, kicked well and showed off his booming right boot, attacked the gainline, and generally controlled the match better than his counterpart Abner van Reneen. Yes, the Stormers No 10 was battling a shoulder niggle, possibly his ACL joint during the match, which possibly impacted his performance, but it should take nothing away from the shift that Hendrikse put in.
It is still too early to make a call on the young man’s future, but if this performance was anything to go by, then Hendrikse has a bright one ahead of him.
2 Lions manage themselves out of the game
With two minutes on the clock, the Lions had won the match but then they made an error in judgement. It is easy from the armchair to critique their decision to hold onto possession, and keep it tight amongst their forwards, instead of playing a territorial game, but that option ultimately cost them the game.
It was perhaps too much time to run down the clock in such a fashion, and with the possibility of an indiscretion always a possibility, far too risky to execute. It resulted in Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies turning possession over at the breakdown. The legality of the play can be argued as on its initial viewing Jantjies, as the tackler, seemed to not release Willem Alberts, nor did he arguably stay on his feet, while the burly veteran equally held on to the ball on the ground.
Either way, it should not have come down to that single call by the referee, as the Lions had plenty of opportunities to claim an important victory. Their management in those final moments was not up to scratch.
3 The other major problem
For the last three games now, including this one, the Lions’ defence has been poor. They missed crucial tackles on Saturday again, which kept a scratchy Capetownian-side in the match. Out of the 71 tackles they attempted, they missed 21, The previous week against the Sharks they missed 22, and in their first match against the Bulls they slipped 24. Their one-on-one tackles have not been good enough, and Ivan van Rooyen should rightfully be peeved about it.
4 But when they packed down …
The Stormers scrum was expected to dominate the match, but that turned out to be far removed from the reality of the day. Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe - all Springboks - instead found themselves in a battle for bragging rights against Sti Sithole, Jaco Visagie and Carlu Sadie.
The Bok trio were under constant pressure at the set-piece, and were pinged for their mistakes, whereas the Lions front-row looked the more comfortable unit. Stormers coach John Dobson had much praise for the Lions scrum after the match, but there is no doubt that the Stormers’ “struggles” were down to the inexperience of their second-row in Ernst van Rhyn and David Meihuizen. Swap that duo with Marvin Orie and JD Schickerling, and the complexion of the scrum changes immensely.
That is not to say that the lock-pairing of the Stormers had a terrible outing - quite the opposite. Meihuizen, especially, was a towering figure in the line-outs, marshalling that set-piece with aplomb and winning all of his team’s throw-ins. They arguably just lack that bit of grunt when packing down behind their front-row, something that can be fixed in the future, and will improve the more they play.
5 It’s all about character development
The Stormers were under the pump in this match, and at times battled to contain a Lions side which was prepared to run the ball at every opportunity. It resulted in some beautiful tries from the Joburgers, who revelled in broken play. Even so, the Stormers never gave up, and showed immense character to make a fist of the match into the final minutes.
Yes, they were helped by the errors of the Lions, but no one can take away their determination, and will to win. That facet of their play will no doubt leave a large smile on coach John Dobsons’ face as he prepares the side for their clash in Durban this weekend against the Sharks.