It’s simple, the Lions have to hold on to the ball
CAPE TOWN - Better discipline and holding on to possession will be two of the key factors that the Lions will work on this week ahead of Saturday’s Rainbow Cup SA showdown with the Sharks in Durban.
The Johannesburg outfit had some memorable moments throughout their 22-9 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, but were unable to capitalise inside the opposition’s half.
Flyhalf Fred Zeilinga’s three penalties was all coach Ivan van Rooyen’s men had to show for their efforts, despite putting the Bulls under great pressure with their rush defence and scrumming prowess, especially in the second half.
Outside centre Wandisile Simelane and wing Courtnall Skosan were also threats with ball-in-hand throughout, but the Lions just couldn’t finish.
Zeilinga made it 10-9 shortly after half-time, but missed another strike at goal within a few minutes, and the Lions also lost out on an attacking opportunity with an overthrown line-out.
The Bulls weathered the storm until the last quarter, and secured victory with late tries from Zak Burger and Elrigh Louw.
“I think the biggest Achilles heel was penalties and turnovers in our half. I think it’s not as much tactical as it was error-rate,” Van Rooyen said afterwards.
“I think a couple of times we got into their 22, we were effective. We work hard, maybe up to the halfway line, and then it’s a turnover or an error. Then they kick the ball back into the 22.
“(On attack) sometimes we run away from support, sometimes the support is not going towards the ball-carrier. A couple of times, our first and second arrival missed the clean and missed the stealer. But obviously, we’ve got to be more desperate to hold on to the ball.”
But the Lions mentor was encouraged by his team’s breakdown display, where they managed to isolate the Bulls ball-carriers on occasions, while they also stopped a number of driving mauls.
On the injury front, losing fullback Tiaan Swanepoel early on to an injury was a massive blow, with Van Rooyen saying that “it sounds quite serious”, and he is unlikely to be ready to face the Sharks.
But the coach will hope that veteran forward Willem Alberts returns from a minor niggle that kept him out of the Loftus clash, while he should also consider starting with Carlu Sadie, who made an immediate impact in the scrums when coming on at tighthead prop.
“The guys really fronted up physically, and due to the errors and the way they played into our
22, they had something like eight maul stops … which is something we worked on hard. Physically-wise, proud of the guys,” Van Rooyen said.
“It was quite an intense battle, and they managed to put us in our own 22 in the last 20 minutes. We played all the way out, made an error, and they just kicked us back into it.
“Proud of the guys who got their first caps, and proud of how the guys wanted to play.”