The Lions’ Super Rugby campaign is subtly appearing to be entering troubled waters after they had to pull out all the stops to put a passionate Sunwolves team to bed 40-38 at a chilly Ellis Park on Saturday night.
After losing their unbeaten record the previous week against Blues, it took a try by wing Rohan Janse van Rensburg to create a big enough cushion of 40-31 for them to fend off their opponents.
However, there was enough gas in the the Sunwolves tank to score a fifth try in the dying moments to thoroughly spook the misfiring home side.
After holding on to a slender 19-17 lead at the break the Lions seemed to move up a gear after the break with their fourth try by electrifying wing Aphiwe Dyantyi to lead 26-17, but the errors kept coming.
Who was the star in this match?
While the Lions were very disjointed at times, it was their solid hooker Malcolm Marx who kept his standards high. His first try in the 27th minute he ensured the Lions’ lead grew to 19-10, while his barnstorming dart from a maul for his second try helped get back a decisive lead. at 33-31. The Springbok star’s defence was solid.
Key moments and themes
- There were a lot of faults to pick from the Lions’ performance but arguably the most visible weakness was their lack of an exit plan. The hosts simply didn’t seem adaptable enough to kick for relief when they were pinned in their own half. Instead, they still tried to run the ball despite the Sunwolves’ linespeed on defence causing them all sorts of problems.
- Similarly, the Sunwolves’ flat defensive line again exposed the Lions’ own straight attacking line. The Lions will have to find a way of varying their attack by either going more direct or standing deeper to prevent them from being swallowed by opposition defenders. It’s actually a wonder why opposition teams haven’t started doing this sooner.
- As the Lions let various scoring opportunities slip, the well-drilled Sunwolves were ruthless in taking their chances. The suspicion persists that they’re still inherently limited but they are superbly coached by Super Rugby-winning mentor Jamie Joseph.
- A red light will also be the Lions’ meek tackling for the second week in a row. They missed 27 of their 100 tackles. There was no better example of that than when Sunwolves left-wing Hosea Saumaki first bumped off fullback Andries Coetzee and then Dyantyi on his way to score the visitors third try.
Lions – Tries: Andries Coetzee, Marvin Orie, Malcolm Marx (2), Aphiwe Dyantyi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).
Sunwolves – Tries: Kotaro Matsushima, Craig Millar, Hosea Saumaki, Kazuki Himeo, Atsushi Sakate. Conversions: William Tupou (3), Ryota Nakamura (2). Penalty: Tupou.