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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Lions must find heart, attitude, says defence coach Jaque Fourie

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Johannesburg — To say the Lions have come across as angry these last few days, might be underselling their collective emotion.

After the 34-10 United Rugby Championship drubbing to the Bulls this past weekend, stand-in captain Jaco Kriel was certainly peeved; head coach Ivan van Rooyen post-match seemed to be masticating on his rage; and then yesterday, Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie’s vexation at his players’ lack of discipline and commitment transmitted through the conference call.

It is easy to understand why.

In the last two games that the Lions have played – both losses to the Sharks and the Bulls at Ellis Park – they have attempted 169 tackles, effecting 138 for an 82% tackle-success rate. They have also leaked a collective 10 tries in those matches.

When compared to the 203 tackles they attempted, of which 183 had a positive outcome, in their impressive win against the Stormers last year for a 90% tackle success, then you can begin to appreciate the Cup-winning Springbok’s frustration.

“Talking about the last two games, our defence was terrible,” said Fourie matter-of-factly. “We are not going to beat around the bush with that.

“There is certain stuff that we have to work on. Unfortunately, there is only so much we can coach, but if the players don’t have the attitude, the work-rate and the heart to do it for each other, then you know you can only go so far.

“The weekend against the Bulls, they are a physical side, and if you are going to let them run at you for 80 minutes, they are going to give you a hiding. For us, it is about manning up on the weekends, doing what we did wrong better, and just fronting up and making our tackles.

“Unfortunately, that is something I cannot do for the players on the field.

“If you don’t have the heart and the attitude on the field,” Fourie continued later on the topic, “you can only take a horse so far…

“As a coach, it is to get these guys up every single Saturday before a game to just start playing for each other.

“It’s having the respect for the player inside and outside of you, knowing that he is going to do his job, and you have to just do your job. It is a team sport and it takes 23 guys – 15 guys on the field – to work hard for each other.”

Indeed, the Lions seemed to be just going through the motions this past weekend. They were careless and flat-footed in attack, while in defence, they lacked the required physicality to signal to the Bulls that they meant business.

This Saturday at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kickoff) then affords the Joburgers the opportunity to reclaim their honour with a showing that will make the Bulls think twice, and in future fixtures quake in their boots.

Said Fourie: “On the one hand we are playing the same side, so you know what is expected and what they are going to bring on the weekend, with probably one or two changes in their game plan.

“For us, you get another chance to play against a side that gave you 34 points. For us, it is about pride, standing up this weekend and just making a stance.

“It is also a turning point in our URC campaign, that we are not just going to let teams score easy points against us because we are really working hard to score tries; and to just give away easy tries, that is not the way we want to play.

“There is certain stuff that we changed this week to get the guys ready for the weekend physically and mentally, so that they can be prepared. Hopefully, those changes that we did will lead into Saturday’s game and we are going to defend much better.”

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