When Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and his management team get an opportunity to sit down to take stock of their Super Rugby campaign, they will find that they let themselves down in three key areas, which resulted in just one win in six matches before the suspension of the competition at the weekend. Photo: EPA
When Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and his management team get an opportunity to sit down to take stock of their Super Rugby campaign, they will find that they let themselves down in three key areas, which resulted in just one win in six matches before the suspension of the competition at the weekend. Photo: EPA

Lions have lost their roar

By Jacques vd Westhuyzen Time of article published Mar 17, 2020

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When Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen and his management team get an opportunity to sit down to take stock of their Super Rugby campaign, they will find that they let themselves down in three key areas, which resulted in just one win in six matches before the suspension of the competition at the weekend.

Jacques van der Westhuyzen lists the areas of concern, and finds one thing to at least be positive about.

Set-pieces

Up to this season, the Lions had been one of the strongest and most feared set-piece teams in the competition.

They dominated at scrum-time especially and regularly won penalties, which won them good field position from where they could set up their potent line-out drive, or keep the scoreboard ticking over by bagging three points.

Sadly, what was their strength is now their biggest weakness.

They are the worst performing team with a success rate of just 81 percent when it comes to scrum wins - a successful weapon that has completely lost its potency.

Their line-outs have also been far from clinical (83.6 percent success) and will need drastic action in the weeks and months that lie ahead.

Attack

It was just two years ago that the Lions were the joint top try-scorers in the competition alongside the Crusaders, but in 2020 they have lost their attacking edge and are not nearly the free-flowing, attack-minded side they once were.

They go into this enforced break having scored a paltry 14 tries in six matches to be second worst in this area of the game.

For what it’s worth, the Reds have scored 32 in seven games and the Brumbies 31 in six.

The Lions have shown little creativity or variety with ball in hand and their once dangerous counter-attacking game is now very much a part of history.

The Lions’ number of “clean breaks” are the worst of all the teams at 44; the top-ranked Reds have 106.

Defence

But if the attacking play by the Lions is concerning, it’s nothing like the leaky defence of 2020.

Now, the Lions have never been the most stingy side when it has come to defence, but no team can concede as many tries as the Lions have and think they’re going to win more than they lose.

In their six games they have let in 27 tries due to a low 79 percent successful tackle rate. Of the teams who’ve played six times, the Stormers have let in 10, the Crusaders 15 and the Brumbies 15.

In their most recent three matches in Australasia, the Lions let in five tries against the Waratahs, five against the Rebels, and six against the Blues, while scoring two, two and one.

If the Lions play again this year they simply have to strengthen defensively.

... but rucking has been good

This is the one department where things have actually gone fairly well for the Lions.

According to Sanzaar’s official statistics, the Lions have won 95 percent of their rucks, which has given them plenty of good ball and possession.

Surprisingly, in all six of their matches so far, the Lions have enjoyed far more ball possession than their opponents, including in all three matches in Australasia: 61 percent against the Waratahs, 52 against the Rebels and 57 against the Blues.

Also, in every match they have out-rucked their opponents: 91-87 against the Jaguares, 88-42 against the Reds, 88-52 against the Stormers, 97-53 against the Waratahs, 82-65 against the Rebels, and 99-69 against the Blues.

The stats show the Lions have done enough to ask more questions than they have, and should really have a better record.

* The Lions players and management team have been forced into 14 days of self-isolation following their return from New Zealand.

@jacq_west


The Star

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