Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Coach, captain pinpoint areas of concern as Lions fall further back in race for URC top eight

The loss against the Bulls has put the Lions in a very precarious position as they are expected to come up against a Springbok-heavy Sharks next.

The Lions’ inability to string multiple phases together on attack cost them dearly in their 25-10 United Rugby Championship (URC) cross-Jukskei derby loss against the Bulls at Ellis Park over the past weekend.

It was an inept display from the hosts, who looked completely bereft of ideas as the Bulls ran in four tries to one, and dealt the Lions their first loss of more than seven points in the competition this season.

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The result will have stung even more as the Lions had lost to their closest rivals just a few weeks ago at Loftus, going down 30-28 on that occasion, but they were unable to match the performance they produced in Pretoria to be completely outplayed the second time round.

Three phases

“I can’t remember us playing three phases. It’s difficult to enforce any plan if you can’t get interplay. So I don’t think it is a case of copy and pasting and seeing what happens,” said coach Ivan van Rooyen in comparing his sides efforts over the two games.

“Initially we didn’t really get line-out ball like we wanted to in order to put them under pressure. And again, I don’t think we got (through) three phases. It’s very difficult, then you get a set-piece and the game slows down again.

“I think at some stages our defence was unbelievable and physical.We did concede four tries, but I think we did put them under pressure defensively.”

Captain Marius Louw was also unhappy with the efforts of his charges, claiming that the game was not as physical as the one at Loftus in late January.

“I think the previous game was more physical because there weren’t so many phases. That’s from my point of view. Some of the forwards might see it differently. It’s always physical against the Bulls. I just think errors didn’t allow us to go there,” explained Louw.

Precarious position

The loss against the Bulls has put the Lions in a very precarious position as they are expected to come up against a Springbok heavy Sharks team in two weeks.

If they lose that game they will be even further off their goal of finishing in the URC top eight and then head on a difficult two game European tour, which could effectively end their chances of making the competition playoffs.

However Louw believes their mistakes over their past few losses are fixable and that the team just needs to knuckle down and improve over the coming weeks.

“I don’t think it’s a trend of errors that creep in, it’s just little things every now and then. We sorted out our attack, but again, if you can’t keep the ball, if you can’t win the set-piece, you can’t get onto the attack,” said Louw.

“Something we will have to look at as a backline is our ability to run, and then kick. As a unit pack our scrums and line-outs. Overall we will have to make sure that we get better at all aspects of our game.”

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