JOHANNESBURG – The new-look, young Lions are one win away from featuring in the 2019 Currie Cup semi-finals.
They have so far won three times, but also lost twice – their last two games. To be guaranteed a play-off spot they will have to pick up at least a few log points against Griquas, who they face in Kimberley this Saturday. It won’t be an easy game as Brent Janse van Rensburg’s men are the form team in the competition, having won four of their five games.
The Lions have blown hot and cold during the campaign and here we look at five parts of their game they need to fix if they’re to end their two-game losing run and win in Kimberley this weekend.
Win the first half
In all five of their matches so far Ivan van Rooyen’s team have trailed at the half-time break. In three of those matches they were able to come back and win, but in their last two outings they haven’t been able to do so. The reality is the Lions have put themselves under pressure from the start of their matches and hoping things work out well later on. They simply cannot continue in this vein and need to start better this weekend, even if that means playing for territory and kicking penalties, rather than opting for touch and a line-out.
Dominate the rucks
The Lions have lost a number of seasoned men in the last two years and they are having to soldier on without an experienced core who’ve always got stuck in. Against an abrasive and fired-up Griquas the Lions will have to be more aggressive at the breakdowns. For the Lions to be at their best they need quick, front foot phase ball.
Close the gaps
The Lions weren’t the tightest team defensively in Super Rugby and they haven’t been much better in the Currie Cup, allowing their opponents to score some soft tries. Sure, coach Van Rooyen has chopped and changed a bit during the competition as he’s tested the union’s depth, meaning combinations haven’t been settled, but still, the Lions players need to make more tackles. Griquas are a hard-running team who like to play with plenty of width so for the Lions to stand a chance they need to stand up defensively.
Get the set-pieces sorted
Again, it hasn’t helped the Lions haven’t been able to settle on players as either Van Rooyen has been trying out new men he’s looking at for Super Rugby next year, or players like Jacobie Adriaanse, Johannes Jonker and Dylan Smith have been injured. The locks – and there are several Van Rooyen has put to the test – have also changed almost weekly so it’s hardly surprising the team battled somewhat for consistency in the set-pieces.
Someone to stand tall
Lions captain Ross Cronje spoke about his team not clicking once so far this season and he’d be right. Also, no player has really stood up and announced himself to the watching public and his teammates. There have been cameo appearances here and there, by the likes of Tyrone Green, Madosh Tambwe, Shaun Reynolds, Wandisile Simelane … but no-one has taken charge, especially up front, and said “follow me.” The Lions are crying out for a leader, a player to fire them up, from one game to the next.
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