JOHANNESBURG - Despite losing two of their last three matches - against the Blues and Jaguares - and only just edging the lowly Sunwolves, coach Swys de Bruin says there is no panic in the Lions camp.
After making a fantastic start to the 2018 Super Rugby campaign with wins against the Sharks (home), Jaguares (home) and Bulls (away), the Lions have come unstuck in the last three weeks.
And all of a sudden questions are being asked about the new-look coaching team with De Bruin in charge, but minus Johan Ackermann and former defence coach JP Ferreira, as well as the leadership of the team in the absence of Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel.
Things started to unravel when Whiteley left the field in the early stages of the match against the Blues, with his side well in command, and the Lions haven’t been the same since.
“There is nothing that is specifically wrong,” said De Bruin on Monday, just hours after arriving back from the trip to Buenos Aires where his team lost 49-35 on Saturday.
“We’re far from being at panic stations ... all teams win and lose; these windows happen. We’re still second on the log with four wins from six games and if you look at our stats you’ll see we’re in good shape in a lot of departments.”
Indeed. The Lions are leading the way when it comes to the attacking side of things, but defensively they have been found wanting.
“What’s so disappointing is we’re letting tries in we didn’t in the past, and shouldn’t be,” said De Bruin. “It’s so frustrating at the moment ... we score a try, then we let them right back with a try. Most of our stats are so good, including our lineouts (at 92% success to be second in the rankings); it’s just soft moments that are costing us.
“This is sport though, these things happen. The Jaguares on Saturday were in one of those moods again; they played brilliantly, the best I’ve seen from them,” said De Bruin. “They were so hungry for a win after a tough year.”
While De Bruin admitted Whiteley’s absence was tough on the team, it was not the reason for the recent slump in form.
“We need to be realistic here, Warren is an unbelievable captain and leader; he’s one of a kind, and we’re also missing his deputy Jaco (Kriel), so it is a bit of a problem with them out.
“We just need to keep working hard, and that’s what me and Joey (Mongalo, the defence coach) are doing every day. We simply need to cut out those soft moments that are hurting us.”
The Lions will only start preparations for this Sunday’s match against the Crusaders on Wednesday after time off to refresh following the trip to Argentina over the weekend. The likes of Cronje, Andries Ferreira, and Jacobie Adriaanse should be back this week after sitting out last weekend.