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Lions have to kick their habits


They are currently in New Zealand preparing for a match against the Blues, which will be followed by a date with the Highlanders

The Lions need to sharpen up their attack, tighten up their defence and kick more if they are to turn their season around.

Ivan van Rooyen’s new-look team are struggling to get to grips with Super Rugby and find themselves at the bottom of the SA Conference with one win from five matches. They are currently in New Zealand preparing for a match against the Blues, which will be followed by a date with the Highlanders.

The Lions have already lost to the Waratahs and Rebels on tour and before that also went down to the Jaguares in Argentina and the Stormers at Ellis Park. Their only win has come against the Reds.

Work to do

If some of the statistics (from Fox Sports) after six rounds are to be believed then the Lions have some work to do to get their 2020 campaign back on track.

While they have fared fairly decently in a number of departments, there are some areas that have seemingly cost them dearly so far this season.

Their attacking game has been nowhere near what it once was, and they have so far scored only 13 tries. The Sharks and Jaguares have scored 23 each, albeit from six matches.

Among the reasons why Van Rooyen’s men have found it so difficult to cross the whitewash is their set-piece hasn’t fired properly and they’ve not created too many plays in the backs.

They’ve made only 23 line-breaks so far – the fewest of all the teams (leading the way are the Reds with 51), while they’ve made 96 tackle busts – the fifth fewest. Not helping their cause is the fact the Lions are the worst performing team at scrum-time, winning 95 percent of their scrum feeds, but they’ve still had enough ball to play with.

According to the statistics, the Lions have, surprisingly, taken the ball through seven-plus phases on 25 occasions (the joint most with the Rebels) but then failed to properly make it count.

The other two areas that have been costly are defence and kicking. The Lions have so far been asked to make 600 tackles (a fairly average number), but they’ve missed 103.

It is one of the reasons why they have conceded 21 tries (the Stormers after five games have let in only eight tries). They’ve allowed their opponents to make 46 line-breaks, a poor return in defence, with only the Sunwolves worse in this department, with 59.

And while the Lions are regarded as a team that runs first, then passes, and then only kicks, they’d perhaps do better if they kicked more often, like the Sharks.

Van Rooyen’s team have kicked the ball 91 times (the fourth fewest) and lie last in the SA Conference, yet the leading Sharks, with five wins from six and 23 tries scored, have kicked the second most of all the teams – 133 times. The Jaguares have kicked 134 times.

The Lions, a third of the way in, have several areas they can focus and improve on if they’re to get their season back on track. But, despite their woes, they now have a good opportunity to do just that when they come up against the Blues in Auckland this weekend and Highlanders next week in Dunedin before returning home.

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