What will not please the Lions and what will need to be rectified ahead of their next clash against early pace-setters the Cheetahs, will be the team’s woes at the line-outs, protecting their possession at the breakdown and the penalty count.
JOHANNESBURG – Two games, two losses. As marginal as their defeats have been, the Lions will know they could have – and arguably in their most recent Super Rugby Unlocked loss against the Stormers on Saturday at Newlands, should have – walked away with the victories.
Unforced errors, silly mistakes and a lack of execution cost the team as they sought to secure their first win of the tournament but, luckily for captain Elton Jantjies and Co, it was not all doom and gloom. As acknowledged by both the skipper and coach Ivan van Rooyen, there were plenty of positives to take from the game, the negative 23-17 scoreline notwithstanding.
If you watch the game,” said Jantjies after the defeat, “I feel there was a lot of good being done Collectively, there was good energy. We scored tries, and we had one try disallowed. The energy was good, and the guys pitched up.”
It was a sentiment that Van Rooyen agreed with.
Said the coach: “I think the first 40 minutes were good from us.
“We managed to put them under a lot of pressure. The only thing we were short on was opportunities to convert into points, whether it is three, five or seven. A try that we scored was disallowed, so we definitely had them under pressure on defence and attack one or two moments went against us, and that was the difference in the game.”
Indeed, the Lions can be proud of their performance, and overjoyed by their showing upfront against a Springbok-laden forward pack. They were especially potent in the first half, and overall won the scrum battle 7-3 for a 58% win ratio to the 25% ratio of their more illustrious opponents.
Once again, Carlu Sadie and Sti Sithole, with Jaco Visagie in the middle, combined well together to create a solid foundation upon which to build. For sure, and again at critical moments of the game and especially after the starting trio was replaced, the Lions failed to capitalise on their hard-won labours, which aided the Stormers in taking control of the game.
“I think it was a good showing by the front row,” mused Van Rooyen after the match. “I am proud of them. There were still moments which cost us, so we will continue to work on it.”
Another positive was the performance of Burger Odendaal. The outside centre had an impressive outing, with an all-important score-assist in the final 10 minutes that opened up a final push for victory, while earlier he had the aforementioned try disallowed. For his efforts, Odendaal won the Man of the Match award, despite being on the losing side of a tough encounter.
“Burger (Odendaal), in my opinion, definitely deserved the Man of the Match,” said Van Rooyen. “He put his body on the line defensively for 80 minutes, on attack he had brilliant decision-making I think Burger had an exceptional game on (Saturday).”
What will not please the coaching staff, players and supporters, and what will need to be rectified ahead of their Friday night clash against early pace-setters the Cheetahs, will be the team’s woes at the line-outs, protecting their possession at the breakdown and a penalty count that kept the Stormers in the game.
The Lions lost four of their own throw-ins, while the Stormers pillaged seven turnovers at the ruck. A final decision also went against the Lions in that area when Steven Kitshoff played to his strengths and the leniency of referee Rasta Rasivhenge. Jantjies was quick to point out that despite that call, the Lions should have done better to protect their own ball, and could therefore not blame the officiating.
The Lions also conceded 13 penalties to the Stormers six, which the Cape Town side duly used to build scoreboard pressure and territory.
Rectifying these errors, while building on their successes must now be the focus of the Lions as they start a four-game home fixture list, starting with the Cheetahs this weekend.