‘Canes defence pressured Lions’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby final and the Springbok squad.

Super Rugby final

'The Hurricanes played against a strong Lions defence, but they were more comfortable on the ball in the wet weather. The pick-and-goes from their forwards were effective as was TJ Perenara’s use of the blindside. They also kicked well into space, much better than the Lions.

'The Hurricanes’ rush defence in that wet weather was effective, because it placed the Lions under time pressure. It is more difficult to control the ball in hand, whereas in dry conditions they’d have more time on the ball. The Lions were being tackled 2m behind the advantage line today, so there was never any momentum.

'You’ve got to go downfield in order to get that running and passing game going, so by going backwards slowly, the Lions were forced to kick. Their kicks were defensive kicks under pressure whereas a lot of the Hurricanes’ kicks were after the forwards had gone forward, allowing the flyhalf to take it to the line to make accurate attacking kicks. There was a big difference in the quality of ball the two halfback pairings got from their forwards.

'Elton Jantjies should have been in a better position to clear for touch or Faf de Klerk should have cleared from the base of the ruck before the Hurricanes’ first try. And when defending 10m from your line, the last ball a scrumhalf wants to get is a hacked tap-back ball into your in-goal area. Those two Hurricanes tries came off Lions errors and if they had rectified that, it would have been a penalty kicking game.

'As long as the Lions retain their players, they can sustain their progression. With some really good SA Schools players going to the union, their recruitment is going well. It’s been a great season for the Lions, unfortunately they played in conditions they are not used to. A dry Ellis Park is completely different from a wet and windy Wellington. It just looked like the Hurricanes were more comfortable playing in those conditions, especially Beauden Barrett, whose kicking was outstanding.

'What really summed this game up was how the Hurricanes changed their forwards from a powder-puff pack a couple of years ago, to a side that can win a vital penalty at a scrum the Lions chose [to take from a penalty] just before half-time and three or four lineouts against the throw. [Hurricanes assistant coach] John Plumtree is absolutely integral in that evolution. He is an outstanding coach and was very good at the Sharks and with Ireland. He is solely responsible for improvement in the Hurricanes’ forward pack. He is a great loss to South African rugby.

'Sometimes you have to stick with a coach through the ups and the downs to make sure the team improves. The Sharks didn’t stick with Plumtree, but the Lions did with their coaching staff. Johan Ackermann was involved with John Mitchell and through the firing of Mitchell, they showed confidence in him, [assistants] JP Ferreira and Swys de Bruin and they have been absolutely brilliant these last few years.

'A couple of appointments were key to the Lions’ success. Kevin de Klerk getting the presidency at the Lions and his relationship with Rudolf Straeuli, who is the CEO, and then of course the appointment of Ackermann, who is a humble guy and a fantastic man-manager, De Bruin, who brought a lot of attacking ideas from New Zealand rugby which the Lions implemented and Ferreira, who is from within the Lions system and has the respect of the players. The relationship between the captain and coach is vital. The fact that Warren Whiteley clearly gets on well with the coaches and that he his highly respected by the team is an advantage. There is a lot of happiness in this team and a rugby player loves playing in a happy system.

'I still think there will be a niggling thought that perhaps the Lions should have sent a slightly stronger team to face the Jaguares so they could have come away with one point to top the overall log. I really believe if they played at Ellis Park in dry conditions this afternoon, making the Hurricanes travel halfway across the world, it would have been a much tighter game and the Lions would have had a better chance of winning. Before this game I thought it was going to be a tough hill to climb.'

Bok squad

'Among the 16 forwards selected, there isn’t anyone who you’d have left out. There is high regard for the four locks, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Franco Mostert. Steven Kitshoff is an outstanding loosehead prop with Trevor Nyakane on the tighthead. Malcolm Marx’s call-up is recognition for an outstanding season. No one has been left out of the pack who could feel aggrieved.

'The one real concern is Pat Lambie. He hasn’t played for a long time and to have a concussion delayed for as long as this is of great concern. We need a medical update on that because with him and Handré Pollard out, our flyhalf stocks are a little thin. It will be interesting to see if they select Morné Steyn or Johan Goosen on the bench, but I hope Lambie and Pollard get fit soon.'

Photo: Simon Watts/Getty Images

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