Lions prop Dylan Smith couldn’t take the smile off his face when he chatted this week about how the team literally ‘wrestled’ with their energetic forward coach Philip Lemmer during their pre-season preparations.
Smith, who has played off the bench in all three of the Lions’ Super Rugby wins this year, will do so again on Saturday against the Blues at Ellis Park, as he and fellow bench prop Jacobie Adriaanse will look to continue to build on the good work done in the first half by starting props Jacques van Rooyen and Ruan Dreyer.
Lemmer is a former national wrestler and finds the art an ideal and innovative way to enrich his players.
“ He (Lemmer) certainly rubbed his background off on us. We did a lot of that for upper body strength and it’s had a big impact on our conditioning,” said Smith.
However, Lemmer is still considered a bit of a rookie in terms of coaching the “dark art” of the scrum, which is why the Lions also turn to former Bok prop Balie Swart as a consultant.
“Balie is our consultant on Tuesdays and he has been with us since I was a junior here. He really is a ‘scrum doctor’, he knows what’s going on. He really helps us get the job done,” said Smith.
There had been concerns about the forward portfolio after the departure of Johan Ackermann as well as the distinctly unsuccessful tenure of Victor Matfield in the Currie Cup.
But the promotion of Lemmer from the union’s junior structures seems to be a masterstroke as the Lions engine room has quickly bonded with him, taking a liking to his methods and “incredible” energy.
“I think our recipe is based on buy-in from both coach Phil and from us. We’ve found common ground and are working very well as a unit,” he said.
“He backs us, the forward pack. He is very enthusiastic and is forever bringing in new ideas, working hard, pushing us to work harder. You can’t ask more from the guy, he is a fantastic coach.”