‘Lions played too much rugby’

SARugbymag.co.za's panel of experts on what went wrong for the Lions and Sharks in round one and how they should approach their clash in Durban on Saturday.

JOHN MITCHELL (former Lions coach and SuperSport analyst)

'The Lions played too much rugby – they made 149 passes and kicked just 10 times – and I don't understand why when they have kicking options at their disposal. Rugby is a percentage game. It's no use you top the territory and possession stats if you can't convert it into scoreboard pressure. I'm a big believer in building a score. The Sharks had a lot of ball too, but inaccuracy in their exit play and poor kicking cost them. Without tackling much, they missed 20% of their tackles. In round two, the Lions must execute better and kick for territory more, while the Sharks have to bin the undirected and profitless kicking. Kicks have to either be contestable or deep into Lions territory. It's worth a mention that defensive discipline will be the supply to the attack on Saturday, not the other way around.'

ADRIAN JACOBS (former Sharks and Bok centre)

'The Lions had white-line fever against the Hurricanes. They were given opportunities to score but they didn't take advantage of it. The impatience they showed enforced many silly mistakes. Also, they needed experienced players to be calming figures to the youngsters. For the Sharks, losing your captain [Bismarck du Plessis] just before the match can have a negative impact on the mindset of the players. Both sides, though, should not change their game plan going into round two. They need to be more clinical, show patience through the phases and not be over-excited.'

JAMES DALTON (former Lions and Bok hooker)

'Defence is crucial in any game. Ultimately the Lions never took their opportunities. No foundation was built, and they never fatigued the Hurricanes defence. Yes, the Lions dominated the majority of the game but they didn't get the basics right. Conversely to the Lions' dominance, the Sharks were outplayed. The Cheetahs utilised their opportunities and were more competent. For round two's approach, teams will need to limit errors, take points on offer and the rest will fall into place.

BREYTON PAULSE (former Bok wing and SuperSport analyst)

'There's no need for the Lions to change their structure. Expansive rugby worked for the Waratahs last year. The Lions have to figure out when, depending on the situation, to alter their methods. The Sharks are known for their forward dominance, but on Saturday they were floored by a well-prepared Cheetahs side. Both sides were rusty. Conditioning can only bring you so far, proper match-fitness is needed before you enter a tournament like this. The Sharks played Toulon, but it wasn't their strongest lineup. Tougher opposition in pre-season would have been ideal. The Sharks have to sort out their aimless kicking and the Lions just need to fine-tune their game, like cutting the handling errors and taking the points on offer whenever there's an opportunity to do so. Super Rugby needs more risk takers.'

ASHWIN WILLEMSE (former Bok wing and SuperSport analyst)

'Instead of what went wrong for the Lions and Sharks in the first round, look at what the opposition did right. The Lions played one of their best Super Rugby matches and it's encouraging to see. But they are too attack-orientated, leaving little room for defence. Once they strike a balance between the two, they'll learn how to work patiently towards clinical execution. All pundits, and I'm no exception, gave the Cheetahs no chance, but as a collective they were cohesive in their approach. The backline didn't shine, but they were instrumental, especially Willie [le Roux] when he came into the line at flyhalf. That's what the Sharks lack at the moment, a good partnership between 10 and 15. Their kicking out of hand will have to be much better, or the Lions will punish them in the second round, even if the Lions do not improve.' 

Interviews by Mariette Adams & Matthew Sims

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images