It came as no surprise afterwards when Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was “relieved" Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – What’s important is the Lions got a win. 

And it came as no surprise afterwards when head coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was “relieved, to be honest.”

For long periods of Saturday’s round two Super Rugby match against the Reds at Ellis Park, the Lions looked like they were going to buckle and hand the game to the visitors. But they hung on, scored four tries to the Reds’ two, and walked off after 80 minutes with a 27-20 win. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t very encouraging, but it could have been worse. It could have been a loss, and that a week after the Lions copped a 38-8 beating by the Jaguares and a week before the Stormers visit Ellis Park - this weekend.

The Cape side have produced some freakish stuff in the first two weeks of this year’s competition - keeping the Hurricanes and Bulls pointless, in their two matches at Newlands. This weekend’s clash between the Lions and Stormers in Johannesburg may be a home game for Van Rooyen’s team but if the last two weekends’ results are used as a measure, then it’ll be the Cape side wearing the favourites tag.

With four away games in Australasia to come for the Lions after this Saturday’s match, the four points bagged from the Reds is very welcome indeed.

What is clear from the Lions’ first two outings of the year is that they are some way off what the fans and opposition have come to expect of them in recent times. They were well beaten in Argentina in round one and on Saturday against the Reds lost the forward-battle - the visitors dominating the scrums, where Jannie du Plessis was beaten up, while the lineouts again looked wonky at times.

Van Rooyen also admitted over the weekend that the Lions were battling somewhat with continuity in their game. “We need some continuity on attack ... the conditions were wet though and the Reds are a disruptive team,” Van Rooyen said. “But we need to get momentum going; it’s maybe not enough time spent together.”

Lions wing Tyrone Green scores a try against the Reds at Ellis Park on Saturday. Photo: Kim Lydbrook/EPA

Bu if the Lions struggled in the set-pieces and also on attack, they did show improvement in defence. In Buenos Aires they missed 37 tackles; on Saturday they missed just 12 - a much-improved showing.

Besides needing to tweak several areas, Van Rooyen may also consider his team make-up this week. He’ll certainly need a greater physical presence against the Stormers.

@jacq_west



The Star

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