The Lions coaches must use the unplanned break to reflect on the team’s defensive shortcomings and make the necessary adjustments, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Vodacom Super Rugby tournament has been suspended for an indefinite period due to rising concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. At this stage, there is no official restart date and it’s uncertain whether the results of the first seven rounds will count in a rejigged and largely truncated event.
It’s hard to talk about silver linings at a time like this. None of the 15 teams – regardless of their results and performances – will welcome this sort of break. And yet, one wonders if a team like the Lions can’t use this time to reassess their tactics and make a few adjustments.
The Lions lost five of their first six games and currently sit at the bottom of the South African conference. Clearly they have room for improvement.
The big talking point this season has been the Lions’ lack of accuracy and organisation on defence. The franchise has lost a host of senior players in recent years and a number of younger players have been given the chance to step up. The stats after six matches, however, suggest that the youthful side is not learning from its mistakes.
The Lions have leaked 200 points and 27 tries in six games. Only the Sunwolves and Waratahs have fared worse in these departments. All three of these teams have struggled in terms of results.
By contrast, the better defensive teams sit in the top third of the overall standings. The Crusaders, Blues, Brumbies and Sharks are all among the tournament’s stingiest sides.
The Lions (596) have completed fewer tackles than any other team in 2020. They are ranked sixth for missed tackles (126) though.
The Lions were one of the best teams in Super Rugby across the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons. It was during that period where they struck a terrific balance between attack and defence. Indeed, many of their tries were from turnover ball.
In 2020, however, the Lions have been as disappointing on attack as they’ve been on defence. Only the Highlanders (11) have scored fewer tries than the Lions (14) this season.
While the Lions have endeavoured to play with ball in hand – as their running-metre stats suggest – they have enjoyed little success in terms of linebreaks. Along with the Stormers and Highlanders, the Lions are ranked last in the tournament in this department (25).
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