Change needed in Lions' den
This after the team slumped to their third Super Rugby defeat in four matches following Friday’s 29-17 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney. It was the first time the Tahs had beaten the Lions in six matches and since 2014.
The last time the Lions visited Sydney in 2018 they beat the Waratahs 29-0.
The Lions have now lost to the Jaguares, Stormers and Waratahs, with their only win coming against the Reds in round two. They face the dangerous Rebels in Melbourne next weekend before heading to New Zealand for matches against the Blues and Highlanders.
Van Rooyen’s men have been found wanting on attack and defensively this season and on Friday conceded five tries to a team that had lost all three of their previous games and looked well out of form. At the same time the Lions managed to score only two tries - both coming via flank Marnus Schoeman, from the driving maul.
While the Lions dominated the possession stakes in Sydney (61%) and won 98 rucks to the Tahs’ 56 they battled for momentum and rhythm in their game and failed to put multiple phases together. It meant that from 141 ball carries they beat only 13 defenders and made only four clean breaks. With their 100 ball carries the Tahs beat 24 defenders and made nine clean breaks.In defence, the Lions missed 24 of 93 tackles, while the Waratahs missed only 13 of 173.
Only a handful of the Lions players, among them Schoeman, captain Elton Jantjies and wing Tyrone Green, performed well, while several others failed to make an impact.
While the Lions are in a rebuilding phase following the departure of many big-name stars in the last year or two, it is difficult to understand why such dynamic players as loose-forward Hacjivah Dayimani and centre Wandisile Simelane haven’t started up to now.
The loose-trio that has been backed by Van Rooyen has failed to fire while the team’s two first-choice locks, Ruben Schoeman and Marvin Orie, have hardly done any damage to the opposition. And, in midfield, whether it’s been Dan Kriel playing next to Duncan Matthews or whether Manny Rass has worn the No 13 on his back, there has been precious little to get excited about in terms of what they have dished up in attack.
Also, exciting scrumhalf Dillon Smit, a player with plenty of experience and someone who makes things happen on the field, failed to even make the Lions tour squad.
The Lions have now also lost promising flank Vincent Tshituka to an ankle injury - and he’ll be returning home - so Van Rooyen will be forced into making a change in the loose-trio for the upcoming match against the Rebels. Dayimani or veteran 35-year-old former Springbok, Willem Alberts, will now almost surely get an extended run.
The Lions need some strong and bold leadership right now, as well as some tough decisions to be made - by the coaching team and the players themselves. There are still three weeks to go on tour and getting a win, from a commanding performance, this coming weekend in Melbourne would certainly make life a little easier when the Lions hit New Zealand after that.