Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
18 Feb 2017
3:41 pm

Lions need not change much to stay top, says former Bok coach

Heinz Schenk

Carel du Plessis, who mentored the national side as well as Western Province, believes the side only needs to re-kindle a previous strength.

The Lions' trump card for 2017: Ruthless defending. Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images.

Former Springbok coach Carel du Plessis has good news for the Lions in their quest to go one better in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

As some members of the rugby fraternity debate whether Johan Ackermann’s charges should use a more balance game-plan to stay a step ahead, the 56-year-old “Prince of Wings” believes there’s an easier recipe.

“If the Lions improve their defence in 2017, they’ll be an even better side than last year,” he said.

“I remember the coaching staff mentioning previously that they believe they didn’t mark as well as they could’ve. If that aspect of their play improves by 15-20%, not many sides will beat them.”

Also read: Julian Redelinghuys conquered scrums, now he tackles the future

Despite finishing as runners-up in 2016 and scoring the most points in the competition, the Lions actually conceded more tries than the previous campaign, where they finished eighth.

“That’s why the Lions will be better served focusing on their defence, instead of trying something else with their game-plan,” said Du Plessis.

“Clearly they had a defensive system that worked in 2015. I actually do remember it well. They just need to re-kindle that.”

The South African rugby public is generally conservative.

As a result, when teams supposedly have to “adapt” an attacking way of playing the view is they need to be tighter and maybe even conservative.

But Du Plessis can’t quite grasp why that has to be the case.

“Why must the Lions suddenly start kicking more for example? It’s not something they do badly but it’s also not a strength,” he said.

“I can’t quite explain why but in my coaching career I’ve realised than when a team defends well, it suddenly became far more balanced team.”

In fact, Du Plessis hopes the local franchises place for of an emphasis on good defending this season.

“You can’t rely on individual defenders to carry you through anymore. The Bulls last year showed they have some good defenders in one-on-one situations but weren’t as good collectively.”

Better marking aside, there’s little other reason why the Lions shouldn’t be able to replicate their form.

“In these uncertain times, the Lions have the luxury of a fairly stable squad. That’s a massive advantage,” said Du Plessis.

“The majority of the squad is used to the way the team wants to play and various members are now very experienced. Naturally some hard work still lies ahead but I feel in many ways the Lions need to be coached less this year. Let the senior players take the lead.”

For more sport your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.