Procurement: The one aspect where the Lions have to 'up their game'
Lions coach Mziwakhe Nkosi, not for the first time this season, said they won’t be throwing the baby out with the bathwater – despite the team’s winless run in this year’s Currie Cup campaign.
Nkosi, speaking after his team’s ninth loss of the season, to the Cheetahs at the weekend, admitted that structural changes may be needed to arrest the losing streak.
The Lions are last on the standings – having conceded an average of almost 40 points per game and six tries, while scoring just 19 points and three tries per outing.
With just three matches remaining, their only realistic prospect is overtaking the equally hapless second-from-last Western Province – whose only win was in Round One against the Lions.
Nkosi suggested dramatic personnel changes are not on the cards, as “that is all they have in the pantry”.
He added that bringing in a few URC players will make a difference, but he can’t be too harsh on the young players being thrown in at the deep end this season.
The coach said ‘procurement’ should be a priority going forward.
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“It is about being patient with these youngsters,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “Or our procurement has to improve.
“If you look at other unions, their procurement is outstanding and we have to up our game in that regard.”
Asked if the best move is to just ‘back the youngsters or rather go into the recruitment market’, Nkosi said he is “at the mercy” of his employers.
“Individuals don’t change organisations and I have to ‘toe the line’ and support what is being done,” he said.
“I support these youngsters.
“However, procurement is an issue.
“If we mix these youngsters with one or two acquisitions we might be able to produce a whole lot more than we are producing now.
The coach said the reason behind the last two narrow defeats – 26-35 to the Cheetahs this past weekend and 17-23 to Griquas back in April – after leading near the end, is an issue of ‘discipline’.
“In the last 15 minutes [against the Cheetahs] we conceded eight consecutive penalties,” Nkosi said, adding that it is simply “not good enough”.
It was a similar scenario against Griquas, where a lead was coughed up late in the game by conceding a string of penalties.
Captain Andre Warner admitted discipline was an issue, adding that they are “really disappointed” with the manner in which they let themselves down.
The Bulls and the Cheetahs are the frontrunners in the Currie Cup race.
After Round 10, the Bulls lead the standings with one point ahead of the unbeaten Cheetahs.
The men from Pretoria are on 37 points and the Free Staters on 36, but the defending champions have played one more game.
The two teams at the top are followed by the Sharks in third (24 points after nine games), fourth-placed Griquas (21 points after nine games), the Pumas (19 points after eight games), Western Province (nine points after eight games) and the Lions (three points after nine games).
Next weekend, Cheetahs host Sharks in Bloemfontein, while Bulls are home in a Trans-Jukskei derby against neighbours Lions.
Western Province travels to Nelspruit to take on the vastly-improved Pumas.