CAPE TOWN – The Lions could also be a greater group in a lot of areas now however that’s scant comfort after being knocked out of the Currie Cup by the Blue Bulls in the semi-finals.
Coach Ivan van Rooyen spoke about how their defence and setpieces had improved from the begin of the 2020 Super Rugby match, via to Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup.
But he expressed his frustration with how the Johannesburg facet slipped to a 26-21 defeat at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, having made a spirited comeback early in the second half to even issues up at 14-14 with tries by Willem Alberts and Wandisile Simelane.
One of the causes was their poor self-discipline, with the Lions conceding 20 penalties to only the 10 of the Bulls.
The main turning level was the two yellow playing cards conceded in three minutes by locks Marvin Orie and Alberts for repeated infringements.
The Bulls had regained the lead simply earlier than Orie’s departure through Johan Grobbelaar’s maul attempt, and then Stravino Jacobs grabbed his second landing after Alberts was ordered off by referee Rasta Rasivhenge.
“I can sit here and say whether it was harsh or wasn’t harsh, but it won’t make a difference, to be honest. But to play with 13 guys, you are up against it anyway,” Van Rooyen stated.
“I don’t think you will win any game with 20 penalties against you. What happens is that you give the opposition momentum, and then the ref tends to be a little more harsh anyway, which is normal. That’s our own fault, not Rasta’s.”
The Lions boss nonetheless believed the ball-in-hand technique to stretch the Bulls was the proper technique to go, whereas ‘play-off rugby’ ways often outcomes in South African groups maintaining issues tight with their forwards and a powerful kicking sport.
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It was the execution that the coach felt let his group down.
“I felt that one or two times, we tried to force it in our own half, which was unnecessary and puts you under pressure.
“When we managed to hold on to the ball, we did make some good metres.
“So I don’t think we went there too early – it’s when we get there, can we keep the pressure on through phases? When we turned the ball over, we just gave the ball back to them.”
The undeniable fact that the Lions additionally had two residence matches cancelled attributable to Covid-19 affected their marketing campaign, as they might have secured an Ellis Park semi-final.
“I think we grew a lot – and that’s part of the frustration. We got better every week during the season and good enough to win a semi-final away from home. That’s why it hurts so much,” stated Van Rooyen.
“We were under the pump at the start of the Currie Cup after Super Rugby Unlocked, and I’m proud of the guys to win five in a row. Then we got stuck two weeks in a row (against the Bulls), and that’s the difference between a final and a semi-final.”