Mon 24 Jan 2022 | 01:30

Jekyll and Hyde Lions need to be more clinical

Jekyll and Hyde Lions need to be more clinical
Mon 24 Jan 2022 | 01:30
Jekyll and Hyde Lions need to be more clinical
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REACTION: The Lions are not about to throw the baby out with the bathwater, following their loss to the Sharks at the weekend.

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Coach Ivan van Rooyen and captain Burger Odendaal both suggested that they may have been closer to a win than the 37-47 scoreline in the 11-try thriller suggests.

The coach spoke about “four big errors” that were at the heart of his team’s loss.

“It was four crucial errors, on which they capitalised,” Van Rooyen said.

He admitted that ‘decision-making’ is one of the key aspects they will have to work on in the build-up to the back-to-back Trans-Jukskei derbies – hosting the Bulls in a Round 11 fixture at Ellis Park on Saturday and then travelling north for a rearranged Round Nine encounter at Loftus Versfeld a week later.

“It is important to make the right calls in our own half – when to have a crack and when to put pressure back on the opposition,” the coach said.

He said they will also “tweak” a couple of set-piece issues.

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“The line-out was not good enough from our side, but in the scrums, we started to get the upperhand in the latter stages against the Sharks.”

The captain spoke of the “small margins” in the game – conceding one try on full-time that took the Lions from a possible win (at 37-40) to a 10-point loss and missing out on a second bonus point.

“Against the Stormers, we were very clinical,” he said of their impressive performance in their previous match, in Cape Town back in December.

“Every opportunity we had, we put points on the board.

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“This game was a bit different,” he said of the contrast in execution that was borne out by the statistics from the two matches.

In December, in Cape Town, the Stormers dominated possession (64 percent) and territory (68 percent).

Despite their lack of possession, the Lions made more clean breaks (12 to five) and scored more tries (four to three) against the Stormers. They also made more tackles (191 to 86) and had a higher tackle success rate of 89 percent to 84 percent.

In contract, against the Sharks at the weekend, the Lions shaded possession (53 percent) and territory (52 percent). Yet the Sharks outscored them six tries to five.

The Sharks also made more tackles, 110 to 69, at a success rate of 90 percent to 81 percent.

“We created a lot of opportunities, but errors presented the Sharks with opportunities and they scored from that,” Odendaal said.

“I don’t think there are major issues – just small things.

“Those small things made a big difference.”

(Continue below …)

Lions-v-Sharks-stats

He was supported by the coach, who also spoke about the ‘small margins’, adding that they will focus on improving their set pieces for the next few rounds.

“Against the Bulls, it is always a physical game,” Van Rooyen said, adding: “It is important for us to fix those issues before next Saturday.”

At least now they will have a run of four matches on consecutive weekends, after the fitful start to their URC campaign.

The Lions got their European campaign off to the perfect start – running riot against Zebre, winning 38-26.

The rest of their tour was a bag of mixed fortunes – heavy losses to Scarlets (13-36) and Ulster (10-26), with a heartbreaking (9-13) loss to Cardiff sandwiched in between.

Then, after the postponement of their Round Six and Seven home games against Cardiff and Munster, the Lions travelled to Cape Town for a rearranged Round Five game against the Stormers.

On December 4 they beat the Cape Town outfit 37-19 on their home turf.

However, then followed another seven-week break, which included another mini pre-season, before their 37-47 loss to the Springbok-laden Sharks outfit at the weekend.

The Lions now face back-to-back matches against the Bulls – at Ellis Park this week and Loftus Versfeld next week – before hosting the Stormers in Johannesburg.

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