Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has expressed his disappointment at his side’s disjointed performance that led to a 26-21 Currie Cup semi-final defeat against the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday.
The scoreline flatters the Lions as it suggests it was a close game. But in actual fact, the Bulls were in control for much of the contest and were never really troubled by the visitors.
Morne Steyn was one of the Bulls’ standout performers as he wound back the clock to produce a solid tactical kicking display, while the Lions failed to implement a similar ploy in favour of their hard-running, attacking approach. And yet, Van Rooyen laid the blame for the Lions’ loss on their non-existent discipline.
The Lions conceded 20 penalties and two yellow cards, which Rooyen believes were just too much to overcome against a team of the Bulls’ quality
‘I don’t think you’ll win any game when you concede 20 penalties,’ Van Rooyen lamented. ‘What happens when you concede penalties like that is you give the opposition momentum and the moment they get that momentum, the referee tends to be a little more harsh anyway which is normal. So that was our own fault, not the referees. We’ve just got to fix it though.
‘We’ll definitely have to relook our decision-making. There were one or two times when we tried to force it when we were back in our own half, which was unnecessary because we put ourselves under pressure,’ he said of their all out attacking approach early on in the game.
‘When we managed to look after the ball, we made good metres, so I don’t think we went there too early, it’s just when we got there [in the red zone] couldn’t keep the pressure on or take the ball through phases. When we did it, we did well, and when we didn’t we got turned over and gave the ball away and were put under pressure again.
‘We were a bit disconnected at the back and when Morne Steyn realised that, he exploited it with his kicks in behind our backs. But I don’t our lack of kicking was the issue, discipline was the problem.’
And yet, for all their struggles in the semi-final, the Lions did manage to level the scores early in the second half thanks to two quick tries. But any momentum and confidence they gained from that double strike evaporated when both their locks – Marvin Orie and Willem Alberts – were sent to to sin bin and the team had to try to contain the Bulls with 13 players on the field.
‘I have to go check Marvin’s yellow card, but Willem wasn’t back 10, so I don’t think that was a harsh call. I can sit here and say it was harsh or it wasn’t harsh, it’s not gonna make a difference. But playing with 13, we were always going to be up against it.
‘To lose two locks in the last 30 minutes of the game was tough. I was very proud of the boys for the fight they showed, we scored the two tries [to draw level] and then at the end, after playing with 13 men, they still fought back. That made me proud of the character, but I’m obviously disappointed [with the result].
Van Rooyen said the fact that the Lions have made to much progress in terms of their growth and development over the last year or so, made this capitulation all the more difficult to handle.
‘Our defence and set pieces are better than 11 months ago. We grew as a team and I think that adds to the frustration because throughout the season we got better and better every week. We’re good enough to win a semi-final away from home and that’s why this hurts so much. We got stuck two weeks in a row (against the Bulls) and that’s a difference between a final and a semi-final.’
Photo: Lions Rugby