Lions coach Van Rooyen relieved after his side edges the Reds at Ellis Park
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was relieved after his side edged the Reds 27-20 in their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
After being comprehensively beaten by the Jaguares in their opening match in Buenos Aires a week ago, the Lions were under pressure to deliver a home win against the perennially struggling Reds.
For large swathes of their clash at a soaking wet Ellis Park, the Lions, despite having the bulk of territory and possession, failed to make headway where it mattered most, on the scoreboard.
Persistent opposition and a greasy ball conspired against the home side as they failed to bring fluidity to their game. At times they lacked patience and composure against a combative Queensland outfit.
“The conditions were tough and they are a disruptive team. They come hard in the set pieces,” said Van Rooyen.
He believed the disjointed performance was largely due to the players requiring more time together and the disruption that came with travelling back from South America.
“We had only 37 minutes of a practice week because of our flight back. We need a bit of time,” said the taciturn coach.
He admitted, though, that the proverbial drawing board was going to be well populated this week.
“There is lots to fix attack, defence and set piece-wise. For us it is a step forward from last week.
“There is a lot of stuff we can fix Monday, Tuesday and top-up stuff on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” said Van Rooyen.
An area that will invite much scrutiny this week is the scrum.
The Lions were at times manhandled in an area Reds coach Brad Thorne admitted was a discipline of particular focus for his team.
“They are a good set piece team. They scrummed really well against what was a Wallaby front row last week. We do need to fix that,” conceded Van Rooyen.
They will certainly be tested in that area by the unbeaten Stormers, who pack a punch in the scrums from start to finish.
The Stormers possess a pack that generally asserts itself on the gain line and the Lions may have to pull a rabbit or two from the hat this week.
In new recruit Willem Alberts they have a player who has seen it all and can physically impose himself on proceedings. First, however, Alberts needs to get fully up to speed with his fitness and the Lions playbook.
“We will see how he goes Monday, Tuesday. It would be nice to be able to select him given his experience and his physicality. We know all about the Stormers pack,” said Van Rooyen.
Alberts’ availability will come into sharp focus after flank Vincent Tshituka left the field with what the coach described as a small concussion against the Reds.