Gianni Lombard of the Lions in action at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, September 26 2020. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES
Gianni Lombard of the Lions in action at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, September 26 2020. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES

Having turned their Super Fan Day clash against the Stormers into a game of two halves the Lions sought to find what is salvageable from their 34-21 defeat at Loftus.

They went into the break 21-7 down‚ changed their entire team at the 50-minute mark and it brought about a surge in energy and urgency.

“We gave the one team 50 minutes and the other 30. We decided that in the week‚” head coach Ivan van Rooyen said. “The second team picked up the energy nicely and picked up the pace and it made a difference.”

The younger‚ more sprightly substitutes who included Gianni Lombard‚ Dillon Smit and Len Massyn, helped swing the momentum of the game which had been determined by the force of the Stormers set piece. The Lions’ scrum stabilised once tighthead Carlu Sadie was introduced.

“Clearly the set piece needs a bit of work‚” Van Rooyen said, an understatement given the sheer dominance of the coastal pack‚ especially at scrum time. “They managed to put us under pressure. There is a bit of work left there.”

One has to wonder if the Lions would have suffered as severely up front had Sadie been part of the run-on team but the strategy was to unleash a younger group in the second half.

Though he was one of the few standout performers in the first half‚ captain Elton Jantjies was pleased with what he observed from the touchline.

“What was positive was to see the character of the team‚” Jantjies said. “We were behind but we stuck to what we trained. We scored a few tries but we definitely have a few work-ons. I don’t see major work-ons. I’m excited about the younger players who got an opportunity to feel the pressure of senior rugby.”

The restart of the domestic game was always going to produce a match with little flow.

“The stop-start nature of the game brought them more into the game‚” Van Rooyen lamented. “We allowed them to rest. They are well conditioned and they can put you under pressure.

“We made errors and mistakes and brought their set piece into the game. If we can look after the ball a bit more we can apply attacking pressure‚” the coach said.

Overall Van Rooyen believes his team is in a better space than earlier in 2020 when they won just one of their six matches in the abandoned Super Rugby competition.

“We definitely feel there are a few things that’s in a better position than before Super Rugby stopped. Our kicking game and the way we want to execute it. I think the players understand what we want to achieve out of that a bit more.

“Defensively we put them under pressure but there were one or two soft moments that let them off the hook.”


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