Discipline illuminated as Lions head offshore
REACTION: The Lions, South Africa’s worst-performing team in the inaugural United Rugby Championship competition, are determined to make a better fist of it this season.
Their second URC season got off to a disappointing start, a loss to their Gauteng neighbours – the Bulls.
The Johannesburg-based franchise now heads abroad for a three-match tour that includes games against Ospreys, Cardiff and Edinburgh on consecutive weekends.
Van Rooyen said they have learned a lot from their debut season – which started with a four-match tour to Europe.
After an opening round win over Zebre in Parma, they lost to Scarlets, Glasgow and Ulster in a disappointing month-long trip to Europe.
The Lions coach again expects to encounter teams that include 10 or more internationals in the next three weeks.
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“Their game management and discipline are top-notch,” he said of the opposition in the next few weeks.
“We can’t afford to make errors as we did against the Bulls,” Van Rooyen said of his team’s loss in the Trans-Jukskei derby this past weekend.
“[We have to be] a lot more clinical in terms of game management – especially against those three teams.
“Ospreys have a handful of players with British and Irish Lions in their spine.
“Cardiff is [also] a tough team, while Edinburgh will threaten you with the speed of play and a massive attacking game.
“The last 20 to 25 minutes is the part of the game where we will need to be squeaky clean in the next three weeks.”
The Lions coach spoke of the ‘toughness and character’ showed by his team, but admitted discipline remains an issue in the loss to the Bulls this past weekend.
Despite having more than 60 percent territory and missing only six tackles (95 percent tackle success), the Lions conceded 16 unanswered points in the last half-hour – including three Chris Smith penalties.
That saw a 15-all scoreline balloon out to a 15-31 loss.
“We need to work on issues like ‘staying in the moment’ and understand the need of that moment,” Van Rooyen told @rugby365com.
The coach admitted they also lost the set piece contest in the last 20 minutes.
“Through a bit of ill-discipline we gave them penalties and that allowed them to get into our 22-metre area.
“They are probably the best team in the competition in the opposition’s 22.”
* See the Lions’ tour squad below …