Lions keep conspiring against themselves in Rainbow Cup SA
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JOHANNESBURG - The Lions will surely have cursed the rugby gods for their 39-37 defeat against the Stormers at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday, but the truth of the matter is that they had every opportunity to lock out their opposition and claim victory.
The Joburgers scored some wonderful tries. MJ Pelser’s try in the 22nd minute, EW Viljoen finishing off a fabulous effort from broken play in the 38th minute, and a brilliant break from Morne van den Berg in the 74th minute, which led to Rabz Maxwane diving over in the corner for what many would have believed was the triumphant act of the match.
To the surprise of many, they controlled the scrum, outplaying a much more illustrious front row, and a handful of their players – 19-year-old flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse chief among them – had solid performances.
The Lions, however, conspired against themselves, especially in the final five minutes, ultimately losing their third match on the trot in the Rainbow Cup.
“If the match was 30 seconds shorter, then we would be sitting here and saying the attacking play was good, our kicking game was good, our scrummaging was good, ,” said a disappointed Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen after the match.
“We lost the initiative in those final two minutes in terms of our decision-making and our execution.
“I am very happy, though, with the youngsters that got an opportunity – guys like Hendrikse; many of our forwards are 22, 21 years of age and it was an invaluable experience that they picked up.
“There were one or two moments that we lost, like the last two minutes, but I am proud of the character the guys showed ... I know we are on the right path.”
The Lions might be on the right path in Van Rooyen’s assessment, but one of those spaces where they are failing is in their defence.
They once again lacked clinical execution in that department, and it kept the Stortmers in the encounter, especially during broken play.
They committed the cardinal sin of slipping too many one-on-one tackles, and gave far too much space to a Stormers side that was happy to run at them.
In all, the Lions missed 29 tackles from 71 attempts, and although
Van Rooyen was quick to defend the defensive system, there must be doubt growing in his mind about its efficacy after a third misfiring in as many matches.
“Leaking three of four tries is a concern, but they are all from different scenarios,” the coach argued.
Nevertheless, the Lions must once again put another loss behind them, pick themselves up and refocus for a second bruising encounter against the table-topping Bulls, also at home, this weekend.
Van Rooyen and his technical team will have their work cut out for them to keep the team motivated, but as pointed out by the 38-year-old mentor, he has some positives to work with.
“Being more consistent will be a big thing,” said the coach.
“Our set-piece consistency will be important for us to keep on growing, and our kicking game today was a lot better. “Defensively we need to be more consistent and put the guys under the kind of pressure so that whatever they expect, they’ve seen that picture before.”