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Have the Lions lost touch with reality?

ANALYSES: The Lions are the ultimate enigma of the game – showing plenty of promise, but also lacking consistency.

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Their loss against Italian side Benetton in a Challenge Cup Round of 16 encounter in Treviso at the weekend has again raised the spectre of internal player strife.

A team that can’t win against a side down to 13 men for the last 10 minutes suggests the issue is not structure, but attitude.

Benetton beat the Lions 27-17 at Stadio Monigo to reach the quarterfinal of Europe’s second-tier competition.

Despite getting off the mark quickly, with hooker and captain Jaco Visagie opening the scoring in the second minute, Benetton seemed to show more urgency throughout the match.

The captain, Visagie, said in his post-match reaction that the team’s commitment and attitude were ‘100 percent’.

“Physically we were up for it,” Visagie said.

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“I can’t fault anyone for [their] effort.”

The closest he came to giving a rational explanation was when he said that ‘tactically’ they could have been better when the Italian side went down to 14 players for most of the second half and 13 for the last 10 minutes.

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Benetton hooker Giacomo Nicotera was red-carded in the 44th minute for a dangerous clean-out and centre Malakai Fekitoa was yellow-carded in the 69th minute for dangerous play.

Despite drawing level at 17-all, Benetton was the only team to score in the final quarter.

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Using a clich├ęd reply he said they must ‘look at the video clips’ to see what they could have done better.

He also used the ‘bunch of internationals in their side’ excuse for what is a performance that suggests the reports of internal strife that resurfaced in recent weeks may have a lot more substance to them than what management would admit.

In contrast, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen laid the blame at the door of ‘individual’ players.

“After a showing of good physical and repeated efforts from us, unfortunately, individual errors at crucial times stopped us from capitalising on the numerical advantage,” Van Rooyen said.

“We couldn’t look after the ball for long enough periods to get the result in our favour.”

There has been renewed speculation about internal upheaval at the Lions – similar to that exposed by @rugby365com last year.

Unhappiness within the player ranks is nothing new at Ellis Park – as the player review of early 2023 and coaching revolt a few months later revealed.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

 

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