'One small step' for Lions
The Lions are not getting carried away with their win in the opening round of the United Rugby Championship at the weekend.
Putting their poor Currie Cup campaign behind them with a winning start in Europe, they opened their account with an impressive 38-26 win over a Zebre team that featured 10 Italian internationals.
The nine-try feast saw the visitors race out to a 35-0 half-time lead – which became 38-0 early in the second half.
Then a second-half slump saw their hosts score four unanswered tries – with the Lions finally regaining control and holding out for the win.
They are the only South African team to win at the weekend – with the Stormers, Bulls and Sharks all struggling with the intensity and power of European opposition.
While there are a lot of positives – especially the clinical first half – there are also some ‘work-ons’ for the Johannesburg-based side.
Captain Burger Odendaal said there was a ‘massive’ focus on getting off to a good start and laying a good foundation.
However, he admitted there was a period in the second half in which his team got ‘lackadaisical’ and Zebre fed of their mistakes.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was proud of the team, but echoed the sentiments of his captain that there is a lot to work on still.
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Van Rooyen, speaking of the opening half-hour, pointed out that they had a similar clinical display against Western Province in the Currie Cup.,
“This is certainly a step up in intensity and having a crowd there for the first time also had an impact,”he told @rugby365com.
“It is now just about the consistency,” he said of keeping it up for the full 80 minutes.
Odendaal also said it was “awesome” playing in front of a crowd again.
“Having the buzz, the guys felt the excitement and it showed in that first 40 minutes,” he said, adding that he is hoping they can get fans back into the stadiums when they return to South Africa next month.
Looking ahead to the remaining matches on tour – when the Lions will face the Scarlets at Parc y Scarlets on Friday, Glasgow Warriors at the Scotstoun Stadium (October 9) and Ulster at the Ravenhill Stadium in Belfast (October 15) – Van Rooyen said he key was to continue believing in the systems.
“The biggest issue is not to get impatient in our system,” the coach said.
“When we stuck to our systems, stuck to the way we want to play – our defensive scrum, defensive maul – we could feel the players getting excited.
“It is about the discipline of the individuals, to stick to what we want to do and how we want to play.
“I am not saying we shouldn’t play, but we saw that if we stuck to the plan we saw how it worked.
“If we don’t [stick to the plan], we saw how we got too individualistic and then it became difficult.
“The key for us is to be able to consistently repeat execution and effort for 80 minutes. That is something we need to fix,” he said.