Following the conclusion of the Currie Cup, MARIETTE ADAMS pinpoints three takeaways from the Lions’ season with them finishing as semi-finalists.
Lions must improve under pressure
The Lions’ one dimensional approach and failure to adapt have proven costly once again. It happened in those three successive Vodacom Super Rugby finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and it happened again in this season’s Currie Cup semi-final.
The Lions favour attacking rugby above all else and when they are on song, that approach and mindset pays off big time. But when the pressure is on and the set game-plan is not working, there seems to be no alternative.
This has been the Lions’ achilles heel for years and until they implement variation to their style and improve their defensive, they’ll continue to be also-rans.
Lions unearthed a gem in Tiaan Swanepoel
Not many may have known the name Tiaan Swanepoel before the start of the season, but the 24-year-old burst on to the South African rugby radar with a string of powerful performances this past season.
The Lions have struggled to find a like for like replacement for Ruan Combrinck, but that search appear to have come to an end.
With a cannon boot akin to that of Frans Steyn (and Combrinck mind you), Swanepoel’s kicking prowess often times saved the Lions this season. But he is also more than just an excellent goal-kicker. The utility back has proven himself more than sufficient as a primary playmaker with excellent decision-making and precise execution in the moment the big moments.
He finished the season in the top five for most points (63, rank 2nd), most tries (three, rank 2nd), highest kicking accuracy (84.21%, rank 3rd) and ball carries (38, rank 3rd). Swanepoel’s irresistible rise would suggest he is set to become a household name on the local rugby landscape.
Returning oldies proved their worth
The Lions’ recruitment of Jannie du Plessis, Wilhelm Alberts and Jaco Kriel from overseas clubs were frowned upon by some. Even the signing of prop Wiehahn Herbst, who returned from Ulster to South Africa via the Vodacom Bulls before switching to the Lions, was not well accepted.
But the old, experienced heads wound back the clock, producing one memorable performance after the other to remind fans and critics alike about their star-power.
At 36, Alberts emerged as the Lions best forward this past season. Underlining his insatiable work rate, Alberts completed 40 ball carries, the joint most in the competition.
Kriel, Du Plessis and Herbst also made telling contributions to squash any lingering doubts that over their presence in the Lions squad.
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