Lions won’t box players in

Johan Ackermann says he'll continue to give his players the freedom to make decisions despite the Lions' 22-8 loss to the Hurricanes on Friday.

A cursory glance over the statistics for the match would suggest there could be only one winner. The Lions dominated every aspect of the match – made double the carries and half the tackles – but still somehow managed to lose comfortably.

The Hurricanes turned every visit across the halfway line into points, while the Lions spent the evening tossing the ball around without much in the way of incisiveness.

The Lions were extremely lateral on attack, and when they did manage to breach the Hurricanes defence, they chose the wrong option, made the wrong pass, and it all came to nothing.

While Ackermann wasn't pleased with the outcome of the match, he believes there's still value to the ball in hand approach that worked so well during last year's Currie Cup.

'We looked at the statistics and wondered:where we went wrong,' he said.
 'Handling errors will probably stand out and our rucking is another area where we can improve. 
When we were in their half our execution also let us down.

'For me the options for the scrumhalf when we were in the danger zone weren't good enough.
 The players had everything there that would have enabled them to score a couple more times and we are going to show them in the video session on Monday.

'The execution will have to be better next week and more clinical in point-scoring zones.
 But we are not going to put our players in a box, we want to give them freedom to play and people must live with that.

The Lions were guilty of not taking the points when they were on offer, spurning three kicks at goal in the first half, and another when trailing 14-8 midway through the second.

Instead they opted for the corner in a bid to force their way across the line through a rolling maul. Against a well-organised defence, they would've been better off taking the points and building pressure on the scoreboard.

'When you get there, you have to take the points and that's the secret with Super Rugby,' said Ackermann.
 'It felt like a repeat of the Currie Cup final [against Western Province], when we did all the work and all the playing but didn't take the points.

'For most of the match we looked like we could have won the game but we didn't and that was disappointing. The Hurricanes came into our half three times in the first half and they took six points through two penalties and five points with a try.

'We worked so hard just to get into that gold zone but we didn't have the patience within that 22m area.

'It's almost like we lose patience and we try to become even more expansive, whereas you're supposed to be more direct in that area.'

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images