JOHANNESBURG – As head coach of the Lions, it will be up to Swys de Bruin to get the team back on track this week following their shock loss to the Reds at the weekend.
The highly favoured Lions were rocked 27-22 by the 2011 champions after the Australians raced to a 27-0 lead after 48 minutes at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. A gutsy fight-back by the visitors saw them at least bag a bonus point after scoring four tries in the final 25 minutes.
But it was their first half showing - which lacked passion and direction and also found them wanting in the set-pieces - that will be of concern to the coaching team.
The Lions also appeared to underestimate the Reds, a side that went into the game sitting outside the top 10 in the points table with just three wins from eight matches.
The loss - the Lions’ fourth of the campaign - has opened the door for the chasing pack, with the first placed Crusaders, the Waratahs, Highlanders and Chiefs having all played a game or two less than the Lions.
But De Bruin’s men have been rocked before during this campaign and come back. They’ll hope they can get back on track in New Zealand in the next fortnight.
In the earlier rounds, the Lions lost to the Blues and struggled to get past the Sunwolves and then also lost to the Crusaders - all at home - before beating the Stormers and the Waratahs, in Sydney, last week. They’re an outfit that don’t allow the odd defeat, or poor performance, to get the better of them, or define them, and they’ll already have put last Saturday behind them.
The Hurricanes this weekend present an opportunity for them to hit back and how they’d love to do just that in Wellington - the place where they lost the 2016 final 20-3 in atrocious conditions, when still coached by Johan Ackermann.
Also, the Hurricanes have been one of the sides they have generally struggled against in the past.
To get the job done, De Bruin may just make a few changes to his team this week - something he didn’t do last week because he wanted to maintain continuity after the comprehensive victory against the Waratahs.
In the pack, there could be a change in the front row where Jacobie Adriaanse could get a start, while Franco Mostert moving back to lock could also be on the cards.
That would open the way for the coach to pick a new-look loose-trio, perhaps with Cyle Brink coming into the loose-trio.
And while Dillon Smit has performed well at scrumhalf, Nic Groom may get a run there this weekend with Lionel Mapoe returning to centre if he comes through a fitness test later this week.
“Some guys didn’t do their job,” said captain Mostert after the defeat on Saturday. “We also have to go work on a few things and hopefully we’ll make our supporters proud next week.”
Some of those work-ons will be their line-outs, an area that was again somewhat erratic in Brisbane, and their scrums, which didn’t function as well as it usually does.
De Bruin and Co have plenty to think about in the coming days.