Home Sport Rampant Pumas dismantle Lions cubs in Currie Cup clash

Rampant Pumas dismantle Lions cubs in Currie Cup clash

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Willie Engelbrecht of the Airlink Pumas in action
Willie Engelbrecht of the Airlink Pumas in action. Picture: Phando Jikelo, African News Agency (ANA)

A young and inexperienced Lions side was played off the park by a rampant Pumas outfit in their Currie Cup clash on Wednesday afternoon.

Johannesburg – Sorry to say, but the Lions will achieve nothing in the Currie Cup ever again if they do not amend their squad policy.

If they keep their decision to split their player pool into two entities — a United Rugby Championship group full of their most experienced and first choice players; and an extended player group of fringe members and youngsters used for the premier domestic competition — they will cop a hiding at every foreseeable match in the future.

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By the 30th minute of their return clash against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Wednesday afternoon, this contest was over as a young Lions side — the average age of the matchday 23 was only 22 — was completely outplayed and outmuscled by their more experienced hosts.

By then the Pumas had scored four unanswered tries through hooker Eduan Swart, wing Sebastian de Klerk, prop Corné Fourie and flyhalf Tinus de Beer; three of those converted by No.12 Eddie Fouché; to comfortably lead 26-0.

The Lions had no recourse at scrum-time, or in the maul; while at times they were scythed open in general play by the Pumas. Indeed, they were pinned back for the most part of the first half in their own 22, and enjoyed no quality ball when they eventually got possession.

They also made basic handling errors, and could not build anything substantial off their own set-pieces due to sustained pressure from the Pumas that made it all rather scrappy.

If not for some desperate scramble defence by players that included Tyler Bocks and James Mollentze; and the Pumas getting a bit of white-line fever; it would have been much worse.

It was for this reason that the visitors managed to finish off the first 40 on a positive note, as a team maul resulted in hooker Jacques-Louis du Toit messily driving over the line, with the match continuing in that vein in the second half as the Pumas failed to execute their gameplan to maximum effect.

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It might be true that the group of players displayed here by the Lions, many of whom are former Baby Boks, may be the future of the game and superstars in waiting, but head coach Mzwakhe Nkosi’s concerns are clear and present.

It is also true that despite the hammering they took at Mbombela Stadium, the Joburgers showed a lot of heart, courage and determination — an encouraging sign — to enjoy a much better second half, but it is unsustainable and unfair to the legacy of the union, its players and its supporters.

The lack of veterans in Nkosi’s side, though unafraid and full of boundless youthful confidence, cannot be a long-term option. Sure, they might have learnt a thing or two on Wednesday, but in the end, there is no substitute for winning for both coaches and players

This domestic season is over for the Lions (not that it ever got going) — it is now only a matter of how well Nkosi and Co can fare in the rest of their matches without suffering further embarrassment. Hopefully, the Lions management will reconsider, develop and employ a better strategy regarding their squad next season.

For the Pumas, they keep their dream of a Top 4 finish alive but they will have to be far more clinical and ruthless if they have any hope of making a successful run of it in the knockout stages.

@FreemanZAR

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