Robert du Preez’s team dominated every single aspect. Some of these areas include: ball carries (Lions 79, Sharks 150), defenders beaten (Lions 16, Sharks 36), clean breaks (Lions 6, Sharks 17), turn-overs conceded (Lions 21, Sharks 12), missed tackles (Lions 36, Sharks 16), and penalties conceded (Lions 11, Sharks 5).
Also, the Lions had only 40% of the possession. The only departments that were evenly contested were the set-pieces, with both the Lions and Sharks winning their scrum and lineout feeds every time.
So why then were the Lions so poor? Perhaps, it was because they were coming off a bye, or perhaps Swys de Bruin blundered by picking men like Aphiwe Dyantyi, Lionel Mapoe and Ruan Vermaak, who played No 8, out of position, or perhaps it was simply a case of the Sharks clicking superbly on the day?
One thing is certain, the Lions’ young rookies have huge potential, but they may not be ready to step up every week, and especially not against a team like the Sharks, who on the day were playing for their record-breaking prop Beast Mtawarira, and were angry and upset about going down to the Bulls in the dying seconds in Durban the previous week.
It helped that coach Robert du Preez also picked the right side for the match, which man for man was more experienced than what De Bruin put out, and Curwin Bosch showed he is a player who has X-factor and who should be starting every match.
The cracks in the Lions team of 2019 have been showing for some time. They lost to the Stormers away when they should have, and could have, won; they were pumped by the Bulls the next week, in round three, and they only just managed to edge the Rebels, after the visitors imploded in a poor second half effort. They also didn’t wholly convince against the Jaguares and Sunwolves.
De Bruin said what was most concerning for him as that he’d seen no effort from his players. “It’s hard to pinpoint (where and why we went the way it did),” said a perplexed De Bruin after the six tries to one rout.
“I’m here for the effort, the character and the guts, and I didn’t see it. That’s my biggest concern. I’ve lost before, and I can lose if I see the guys have given effort ... but tonight I didn’t get effort.”
De Bruin said he’d have to sit down with his management team and try figure out why the Lions are starting so slowly and not performing at the standards they have achieved in recent years.
“It was the same thing against the Bulls. Tonight the Sharks (like the Bulls) physically had us from the word go. We were not up to it, the whole game ... we were never in this game. Why? I don’t know ... I’ll start with myself and look where we went wrong.”@jacq_west