The real nail in Lions' URC coffin
REACTION: Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted that his team’s defeats to fellow South African franchises was the real nail in their United Rugby Championship coffin.
The team from Johannesburg ended the URC season in 12th position, which is nine points off from a play-off spot.
Their 21-11 victory over the Dragons on Saturday in the final round made it eight wins from 18 games for the season.
However, they could have been playing for so much more in that final game had they obtained extra points at the beginning of the year.
In the space of three weeks between late January and the early parts of February, the Lions lost four games in a row against South African opposition.
It started with a 37-47 loss to the Sharks in Johannesburg before they lost two games in a row to the Bulls (10-34 and 13-21).
After that, they suffered a 10-32 defeat to the Stormers at Ellis Park after they upset the Capetonians earlier in the season at Cape Town Stadium.
In total, the Lions only won one of their six matches against fellow SA sides.
Van Rooyen believes that the poor run of results earlier this year was costly.
“I think that four home games in January and February was probably the point of difference for us,” Van Rooyen told reporters after Saturday’s win in Newport.
“In that first game against the Sharks at Ellis Park, I think we did enough to get there [a win] and after beating the Stormers in Cape Town we were pretty disappointed not to beat them back home.
“If you take those two games, we would have probably been in the top eight.
“We just weren’t good enough.”
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— Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) May 21, 2022
Laying the foundation
However, Van Rooyen believes they will have enough time to get things right during a long pre-season.
“As coaches, we are really excited about the pre-season,” he added
“We are going to get 11 weeks to really get stuck into our processes in terms of where we want to go in all departments.
“We had four training sessions before we played Zebre [at the start of the current season].
“We had time through the season, but to get six to eight weeks where we can focus on rugby and get the guys in our systems to polish up, will be massive for us next season.”
The Lions will also be using their final two matches in the Currie Cup to get things rolling for next season.
“The whole week we have been talking about the next three weeks for us to lay the foundation to keep on improving in pre-season.
“We got two games left – Western Province at home and the Sharks away – so this was week one of three in terms of us looking forward.”