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Ivan van Rooyen insists Lions haven’t loss confidence after yet another loss

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“Definitely not, and I don’t think you would see a performance like the first 40 if there is a disconnect,” Ivan van Rooyen answered sharply, when asked if there was a loss of confidence in the Lions system after another loss to the Sharks this past weekend.

The Lions head coach does have a tenuous point.

The 29-7 defeat to the Durbanites in their United Rugby Championship clash at Emirates Airline Park would not be a fair reflection of the narrative of the first 40. But plot twists, it certainly would be a more apt description of events that occurred after half-time.

Truth be told, the Lions had the upper hand in the first half but lacked the cutting edge to score at least two botched tries, while flyhalf Gianni Lombard failed to convert nine points that could have ensured a maximum 23-point lead. Unfortunately, those fumbles devolved into an embarrassing second half display that was fractured in its decision-making and panicked in its playmaking.

During the first stanza, the Lions set-pieces were solid – their scrum held firm, while their line-outs were much improved. They even snaffled a ball or two at that particular restart.

Their defensive structure denied a then impotent Sharks attack, while they played in the right areas and threatened on attack. But the major problems persist.

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They cannot score tries. They cannot make a meaningful impact on the scoreboard and when their opposition do, they lack the belief to change the flow of the game.

As soon as the Lions went 17-7 down to the visitors 59th minute, it became apparent that a collective effort would be required to instil a calm approach if they were to overturn that deficit. It never came. Instead the body language became more desperate and frantic.

All the positives that they had achieved until then, were wiped away when Curwin Bosch slotted over his third penalty attempt with ease. Speaking of Bosch, the Lions coach was also unanimous in his belief that it was the Sharks flyhalf that really turned the result against them.

Said Van Rooyen: “Curwin just showed his class in that second half in terms of territory.

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“Every single scrum or set-piece in their half, ended up within 20 to 30m from our goal line. There was about a 20-minute period where they just tactically bossed us around.

“To recover from that, you need your nines and your 10s to get you out of that. Our kicking game on (Saturday), in that sense, was just not good enough.”

“When the pressure is really on,” the head coach added, “to try and force a solution at the back instead of playing towards what the obvious solution is what hampered us.

“We tend to force it to the back and squeeze it to almost force a solution, instead of playing what the obvious option is.

“That is what Curwin did well. He just didn’t take the chances in his half. He kicked it 60, 70m back.

“If we manage that first half to take those points, to score the two obvious opportunities, you will then start the second half differently when the pressure is on as you have a bit of a buffer to get out of it.”

The Lions season hangs now on a precipice, one finger clutching on a crumbling outcropping. They have to pull themselves together this weekend against what will be a weakened Glasgow Warriors to return some respectability to their efforts in the tournament.

Their URC postseason hopes are probably over, although they do still have a slim chance of sneaking into the Top 8. Perhaps a full onslaught on the EPCR Challenge Cup must now be their main focus.

@FreemanZAR

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