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Why Lions are still playing catch-up

SPOTLIGHT: Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted that depth remains an issue in his squad after they suffered another United Rugby Championship defeat over the weekend.

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The Johannesburg-based side stayed in the fight in the first half against the Sharks at Ellis Park to go into the break level at 7-7.

However, poor execution on attack proved costly for the home side as the Sharks pulled away in the second half to secure a valuable 29-7 bonus-point victory.

After the match, Van Rooyen talked about depth as being one of the factors behind his team’s poor record this season, especially against fellow South African opposition.

“I’ll just be blunt with this. They [Sharks] had international guys on the bench. They could bring on guys like [Sikhumbuzo] Notshe and [Ben] Tapuai,” Van Rooyen told reporters after the match.

“I think we played against eight international guys with them also resting about eight Springboks.

“Our system is currently a little bit different. When you back the youngsters, they got to swim quickly and they got to work hard.

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“We are probably in need of a little bit of depth in the squad, and I think that is a short-term need for us.”

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‘Backing the system’

Van Rooyen sees the positives in throwing some of the younger players into the deep end.

“It is important for us to back the system as well.

“When you look at the bigger picture you can have three or four guys that can make a difference. Quan Horn and Ruan Venter are 21-year-old guys playing at a very high level.

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“The youngsters are getting a lot of playing time and it is just that the learning under pressure has got to be better and not just from them. Also from our spine – No.2, No.5, No.8, No.9, No.10, No.12 and 15.”

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