JOHANNESBURG - Lions forwards coach Philip Lemmer was in a philosophical - and motivational - mood on Wednesday as he asked his players to stand up and be counted ahead of this weekend’s match against the Crusaders.
The Lions are coming off a third straight loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires in the Super Rugby competition; Saturday’s defeat the team’s second in three weeks after they also crashed to the Blues. Sandwiched in between was a narrow escape against the lowly Sunwolves, leaving fans wondering what has gone wrong with the two-time runners-up from 2016 and 2017.
Lemmer though, a former national wrestling champion and the forwards coach of the Lions, was in high spirits in spite of the dip in form his team have suffered and he wants the players to show their true colours when the Crusaders visit. It is a repeat of last year’s final; the Crusaders becoming the first team on that occasion to travel across the Indian Ocean and win a title-decider.
“Last year’s game is in the past, but we know they’re a team with a lot of heritage and they always perform well,” said the forwards coach. “But they’re also a team you want to play against; they’re one of the big boys.”
And then Lemmer recited a “poem” he believes his players can look to for inspiration this weekend.
“A bell is not a bell unless you ring it, a song is not a song unless you sing it, and love is not love unless you give it away," he said.
“I tell this to my forwards, it’s basically about every player needing to ring their own bell on the field ... otherwise they mean nothing to the team. Each guy, individually, must step up, sing his song, ring his bell; he can’t wait for someone else to do his job. Each guy must take ownership of his position and step up; that’s sport.”
'An awesome spectacle to watch'
The “poem” was often recited by famous and now deceased basketball coach John Wooden, but is actually a little known song written by Oscar Hammerstein from the Sound of Music.
Lemmer mentioned it because the Lions currently have to do without key leaders Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel ... and he expects every player to take charge and control of his position and role this weekend.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but the guys are happy to be home (after going to Argentina), and I know (what has gone wrong in recent weeks) it’s something we can fix,” said Lemmer.
“When this puzzle comes together, and I can tell you we’re close, it’s going to be an awesome spectacle to watch.
“We also have to accept that in sport sometimes things work for you and sometimes they don’t. It’s often the bounce of the ball in rugby; it’s life, but no one is going to point fingers. We’re just looking at doing what we always do better.”
The Lions though know full well they’re going to have to be much-improved from what they’ve put out recently if they’re to have a chance of toppling the Crusaders: “If not at your best against them, not at 100%, they'll give you shots.”