Lions to get 'creative' as first Euro challenge looms
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said his team was in a good space after back-to-back bonus-point wins over the Dragons (33-25) and the Scarlets (32-15) – which propelled them to fifth on the United Rugby Championship standings.
However, turning their focus to their first venture into Europe, the coach admitted the next 10 weeks will provide them a very different challenge – including games on December 23 (against the Sharks in Durban) and December 31 )Stormers in Cape Town) – that will require some ‘creativity’ in terms of training schedules
They will also involve the players’ families in team events during the Christmas period.
Van Rooyen, not wanting to become over-critical after another bonus-point win, admitted that execution was an issue and something they will have to look at.
The desperate desire in the tackle to offload sometimes costs the team and there’s “a bit of development” required in that aspect of their game.
“At altitude, in the heat, the more the ball is in play and you are dictating the terms, will ensure you are better off to get a positive result,” he told @rugby365com.
Facing the Dragons in the midday heat at Ellis Park this coming Saturday and hosting French giant Stade Francais six days later means their debut in Europe presents a far more formidable challenge.
The coach said there will be some ‘tweaking’, given the disappointment of some aspects of their game in their win over the Dragons last month.
“We are obviously grateful for the win, but I just felt we were not good enough and consistent on the day.
“The mindset around this week is not to copy and paste what we did then [November 27].
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“It is important for us to go forward as a group,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “It could be in terms of how we play, but also in terms of [player] rotation in one or two positions.
“It is a different competition, but we as a group are also in a place where we want to go keep on going forward and keep the momentum going.”
The Lions head into the Challenge Cup on the back of an impressive win over the Scarlets.
A superb weaving finish from wing Sibahle Maxwane was the highlight of the contest, while talented young No.8 Emmanuel Tshituka crossing twice in a destructive performance, with his second sealing the bonus point.
Tshituka was in the thick of the action elsewhere though and topped the stats in successful carries (seven) and defenders beaten (five) in a barnstorming display.
The win ensured the Lions – who recorded three wins from three matches on their URC tour earlier in the season – have now beaten all four Welsh regions this year.