Jaque Fourie wants Lions to ‘play the situation’ against Sharks

Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie (right). Photo: Independent Newspapers

Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie (right). Photo: Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 1, 2024


Defence coach Jaque Fourie believes that if the Lions are to overturn a recent slump in form, starting against the Sharks at Ellis Park tomorrow (3pm kick-off), then most certainly the best form of defence will be attack.

The Joburgers find themselves on the wrong end of a four-match losing streak, exasperated by recent back-to-back losses to the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship.

It sees them dwelling in 11th in the URC standings after 10 matches, with four victories in hand.

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Tomorrow’s clash against the Sharks has therefore become extremely important in their ambition to make the top eight.

Speaking frankly at training this past week, former Springbok centre Fourie argued that the Lions approach in recent matches has been unbalanced, and that this was a focal point within the team that they were addressing with urgency.

Said Fourie: “It has been tough because we are defending 80% of the game.

“We must attack 50%. We are losing ball, and we are defending a lot.

“There have been a lot of slipped tackles,” he added, “and the guys are not in the right positions. We’ve worked on our system again, and it is all about manning up and tackling the guy in front of you.”

Over the past fortnight, the team have universally expressed disgust at their performance against the Bulls in a recent 25-10 loss at home.

A narrow 30-28 defeat before that – also to the Bulls – and disappointing losses to the Ospreys and Montpellier in Challenge Cup clashes in January have added to the motivation to turn their fortunes around this weekend.

Indeed, looking at those matches revealed a concerning trend. Fourie’s charges were asked to make 455 tackles – according to Ultimate Rugby – with an average 80% success rate, which is arguably too low for a team with play-off ambitions.

Furthermore, the tale of the tape in possession and territory paints a story of a team unwilling to play with ball in hand, while being pinned back in their half, too.

In those four matches, the Lions played with 45% possession and less than 40% territory on average.

As such, and according to Fourie, they have reassessed their approach, with the hope of implementing those tactics successfully from the Sharks game onwards.

“We came back to Joburg Stadium (for training) with a new plan,” Fourie revealed.

“We have to keep the ball and we have to play the situation. If the situation is to run it, then we must run it – and if the front line is full of defenders, we must find the space behind them and play in the right areas.

“We need to get those decisions right in training and carry it over into the game. We are working a lot on our attack and all our other facets. We must get better.

“The first 20 minutes, we have to start better, and we have to keep the ball.

“When it is on the other side, we must stop first-phase momentum and get the ball back after four or five phases. We showed against the Bulls, in the first match, we can do that.

“In the second match, we started well but then couldn’t keep it up until the end. Our challenge now is to put together an 80-minute performance by starting well, leading throughout the game, and seeing it out until the end.

“That is our biggest problem that we need to work on. Hopefully, we can put it all together this weekend.”

It was a sentiment shared by Lions captain Marius Louw, who also weighed in on what he and the team are expecting from the visitors.

Lions captain Marius Louw and Co are hoping to stamp out silly errors against the Sharks. Photo: BackpagePix

“We have worked a lot on our execution – getting in the right positions on defence, around the rucks, on attack. The problems that we had were silly, uncharacteristic errors. We have worked a lot on that.

“The team that the Sharks might select, I think, is coming here and running the ball. We have to make sure we don’t wait for them to make anything happen. We have to take it to them.”