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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Jordan Hendrikse staking his claim to Lions No 10 jersey

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Johannesburg – Without a doubt, one of the most notable positives from the Emirates Lions victory over the Dragons this past weekend was Jordan Hendrikse.

The young flyhalf put in a commanding performance against the Welsh franchise on Sunday, scoring a try, slotting over two conversions, three penalties and a drop goal to compile 21 points and to scoop the man-of-the-match award.

The Joburgers are developing a nice bit of competition at flyhalf between Hendrikse and Gianni Lombard, who came on for a 15-minute cameo in the second half, and that should bode well for the team.

After the match, as Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen mused about the 33-25 victory, he explained that the two flyhalves offer the team options and how they will approach the next 10 weeks.

“Jordy has been training exceptionally well, especially in the last two or three weeks,” Van Rooyen said after the match.

“He gives us something different … It is a nice headache to have.

“In one, defensively, their kicking game is world class, while the other’s attacking game is world class. Depending on how we want to play at the moment, it is good to have each of them.”

The victory over the Dragons was the first home win for the Lions in the United Rugby Championship (URC) this season, and was not wholly convincing. The tactics employed of rumbling it up with one-off runners was exposed on a handful of occasions, while basic handling skills were lacking at times.

The backline never really got into the game and lacked rhythm on attack.

Discipline was also an issue, with the Lions copping two yellow cards. Van Rooyen waved this particular concern away as the release of pressure in match conditions but it will no doubt be discussed this week as they prepare to host the Scarlets on Sunday (kick-off 1.30pm).

Overall, it was a frustrating performance but an important win. It wasn’t entirely the Lions fault – the Dragons also lacked that clinical edge and it was something the coach touched upon.

“We knew that they are a team that really makes a contest and a scrap out of it,” Van Rooyen explained, “that is the way they play …

“They’ve got the ability to disrupt you, make it ugly and make it disjointed. In terms of that, I am happy with the win – it was a big focus for us.

“We probably left a couple of points out there and it should have been a bonus point.

“It almost feels like you are playing with slow ball,” he added. “With slower ball it’s a race around the corners (at the breakdown) and a battle of inches. Our management and identifying of space could have been a bit better and it became an arm-wrestle for far too long.”

The month-long break from competitive rugby arguably didn’t do them any favours, so it will be hoped that this weekend – with the machine now better oiled – an improved performance will be on the cards.

The victory ensured that the Lions re-entered the Top 8 in seventh place on 19 points with four victories from seven matches, and staying there will require building on this win.


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