Lions have to 'learn quickly and fix quickly'
CURRIE CUP SPOTLIGHT: While one Lions team is riding the crest of the wave, another Lions team is desperate to get off the basement after another mauling.
While South Africa is looking to topple the high-flying British and Irish Lions in Cape Town in the showcase event of the weekend, the Johannesburg-based Lions are desperate to get their domestic campaign back on track.
Following back-to-back defeats against Griquas and the Bulls last week, the Ellis Park-based team host the Pumas in a game that has an air of desperation about it.
Sitting last on the standings, The Lions have won just once this season.
At the halfway mark of the season, the Sharks top the standings on 24 points, with the Bulls in second on 23, followed by Griquas (19), Western Province (17), Pumas (15), with the Cheetahs and Lions both on 10 points.
(Continue below …)
The silver lining – if one can call it that – is that they suffered only one injury of the 21-40 loss to the Bulls this past weekend.
Injury-prone loose forward Roelof Smit suffered an acromioclavicular (shoulder) injury – having been replaced by Sibusiso Sangweni in the 32nd-minute of their loss at Loftus Versfeld.
Star loose forward Vincent Tshituka suffered a ‘minor’ calf strain, but should be available.
The Lions coach, Ivan van Rooyen, admitted it doesn’t get any easier or more palatable to cope with the losses.
He added that the short turnaround last week – from the Wednesday to the Sunday match – showed they needed to be more creative in terms of squad management.
And after Friday’s home game against Griquas, they – like all other teams – have a succession of mid-week and weekend matches through to the end of August.
“We don’t have a lot of time to fix it [the problems],” he told @rugby365com.
(Continue below …)
“We have to be sharp in terms of lessons learnt and we have to be better in applying the lessons learnt.”
He felt that while his team has some brilliant moments, they are still prone to costly “soft moments”.
“We don’t have a choice,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “We have to learn quickly and fix quickly.”
He said that while they “work hard” to get out of their half, they still seem to lose the ball on the edges.
“When you concede possession cheaply, you find yourself back 30, 40 or 50 metres defending again.
“We also conceded some double [back-to-back] penalties. We conceded a penalty in the opposition half, they win the set-piece, play, play, play and win a penalty again. Then you defend your own line again.”
He added they will look at discipline, especially at rucks – with penalties, double penalties and conceding possession cheaply among the biggest concerns.
“Sometimes [we] go for the miracle offload – instead of, after good momentum, keep the ball in hand and keep building pressure.
“Individually we work so hard, defend proudly and then one lapse is seven points against you.”
Following the home match against the Pumas on Friday (July 30), the Lions travel to Kimberley to face Griquas (on August 6) and then meet the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (August 11), the Bulls at Ellis Park (August 14), Western Province in Cape Town (August 18) and the Sharks at Ellis Park (August 21).