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Lions have a few issues to fix ahead of United Rugby Championship clash against Munster

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen. Photo: Ryan Byrne/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Mar 14, 2022


Johannesburg — There will no doubt be more positive energy swirling and permeating the corridors of Emirates Airline Park this week after the Lions finally, thankfully, and assuredly broke their nine-game winless run in all competitions.

It was not a perfect 37-20 victory over Cardiff on Sunday in a United Rugby Championship (URC) clash by any stretch of the imagination, but there is arguably no greater distraction for a team than having to worry about winning.

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However, the Lions now need not have their minds fixed on that particular vexation. Instead, they can look forward to Munster on Saturday at home and focus on all the errors they made and concentrate on how to fix those.

One of those concerns that head coach Ivan van Rooyen will have to rectify this week, is the second half fall off his team experienced against the Welsh franchise. It was going all rather swimmingly at half-time, the Lions leading 24-13 after imposing themselves with a tight approach, to earn the right to go wide.

In the second half, however, the Lions lapsed into old habits, opting for an expansive approach without paying their dues and with it returned the recurring mistakes that have hampered them all of 2022 – handing errors, a lack of concentration and questionable game-management.

It opened the door for Cardiff to make a fist of the match-up, and it is a failing that cannot return against Munster, who showed their class against the Bulls on Saturday past, in spite of being without their most valuable Test players.

Van Rooyen put the regression down to nerves, which certainly will have played a part, but he will also know that drilling in a sense of composure into his young team will be key in the weeks to come, starting with the Irish giants.

“The intent is to play,” said Van Rooyen after the match on Sunday, “the intent is to be dynamic, and the intent to work hard was good from our side …

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“We started the game off well and in the second half, if I am really honest, with the pressure of not winning lately, we got a little bit frantic, forcing one or two things. Sometimes making just another ruck (would have been better) and not forcing that 50/50 or in some cases 30/70 offload.

“But if you stand back … there is Jordan (Hendrikse) – it’s his sixth cap at this level; Krappie (Morne van den Berg) with not a lot of caps; Tiaan (Swanepoel) with not a lot of caps. This is unbelievable experience for them.”

Putting a handbrake for the moment on their URC preparation, the Lions will first need to focus on the Currie Cup. It has been an atrocious campaign for the Joburgers in that tournament as they have lost all of their matches, including a 66-14 drubbing to the Cheetahs the last time out.

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The travel to Griquas mid-week, and will hope this recent victory instils a sense of belief union-wide.

There has been no indication that the union will collapse their two squads – the more senior URC team and the more junior Cup side – into one outfit, but Van Rooyen did reveal that there might be a few faces from the Cardiff match involved in the Griquas clash, sprinkled with the juniors from the SA Under-20 Provincial Championship.

Said Van Rooyen: “The Under-20s had a great win here on Friday against the Western Province.

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“(Tomorrow) there is a Currie Cup game in Kimberley and it is always tough there. The Griquas (are) in good form. We kind of see it as three games this week for some of our players. We will probably get some of the guys that played (Sunday) to participate on Wednesday and next weekend (against Munster).

“The recovery detail, getting back to the process as quickly as possible, is important this week because we have multiple games.”


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