VIDEO: The 'great character' at the heart of Lions' turnaround
The Lions’ win over the Stormers in Cape Town last Saturday marked a dramatic turnaround for a team that appeared to be on the slide.
Having finished last in the Currie Cup, which concluded in September, they have made a bodacious move to the top of the South African totem pole in the United Rugby Championship.
The turnaround could be found in the addition of several assistant coaches added to head coach Ivan van Rooyen’s backroom staff.
It was in September, after the conclusion of the Currie Cup, that Albert Van den Berg (forwards and line-outs coach), Ricardo Loubscher (backline, attack and skills coach) and Jaque Fourie (defence coach) joined Van Rooyen.
Having won just two matches in 12 outings in the domestic showpiece, the Lions now have the same number of triumphs in just five games.
In the Currie Cup, they also conceded almost five tries per game.
In contrast, they have reduced that to an average of three tries per game conceded in the URC.
The Lions coach, Van Rooyen, said defence was “the point of difference” in his team’s 37-19 win over the Stormers in Cape Town this past weekend.
Having regained their attacking spirit, they have now added a resolute defensive structure.
At the heart of that structure is the Springbok great, Fourie.
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As the man who was at the heart of the on-field organising of the Bok defence for many years, he is now helping the Lions regain their former glory.
“What a great character,” Van Rooyen said, when asked about the 72-times capped World Cup winner.
“[He] has seen the movies, got the T-shirt.
“[He is also] a good character in the change room and in the team meeting.
“The influence, you can see,” the coach said of the Lions’ news defence guru.
The Lions will now go into another mid-season break and hopefully resume their campaign early in January.
Fourie, 38, was born and schooled on the West Rand in Gauteng and is back helping the franchise that gave him his professional launchpad nearly two decades ago.