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Ken Borland


Defence, game-management & bouncebackability listed by Van Rooyen as Lions’ best qualities

Posted on March 01, 2022 by Ken

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen listed defence, game-management and his side’s ability to bounce back from a chastening defeat as the qualities he was happiest about in his team’s performance against the Bulls in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

Although the Lions went down 13-21 to their Gauteng neighbours, it was a markedly improved showing from the previous weekend when they were hammered 34-10 by the same side at Ellis Park. And the Lions could even have won in Pretoria were it not for their failure to execute at lineout time, missed chances on attack and a couple of unfortunate scrum penalties that went against them.

“The defence is probably the area that has grown the most since June,” Van Rooyen said. “It’s been difficult to change our system, but against a big, physical Bulls team, we made it difficult for them, we put them back.

“We thought it would rain and we tried to keep them in their 22. We had much more territorial advantage this game and Tiaan Swanepoel makes a big difference with his big boot. The game-management overall was much better today.

“It was a tough week after the loss at Ellis Park, but the reaction we got from the players today says a lot about the group and how they are growing. We really had the Bulls under pressure for the first 20-25 minutes,” Van Rooyen said.

Captain Jaco Kriel, who had been outspoken in his criticism of the previous weekend’s effort, said there had been a welcome lift in intensity at Loftus Versfeld.

“It was nice to see that reaction to what happened last week and how we stayed together as a group,” Kriel said. “But we can be much more clinical. We were in the right areas but we just didn’t round off.

“We spoke about defence for the whole week and the guys’ shoulders certainly felt it! We created enough opportunities through that, but then just small mistakes let us down.

“We had enough chances to convert that pressure into points, but we just didn’t take them. But there was no question about the effort nor the intensity today,” Kriel said.

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