4.8 C
London
Sunday, April 21, 2024

Lions hoping to close the gap next season after a campaign of what ifs

- Advertisement -

Johannesburg — When the Lions review their United Rugby Championship season in the coming weeks, they will realise — as coach Ivan van Rooyen pointed out after their victory against Zebre on Saturday — that it was a campaign of could have, should have, would have.

The Lions were desperately close to qualifying for the playoffs at the end of the regular season. They finished ninth on the standings, three points behind the Sharks in eight spot; and whose 22-22 draw against Munster a couple of hours later, would have opened the door for the Lions to sneak in had they fulfilled their basic responsibilities over the past two weeks.

!function(e,t,r){let n;if(e.getElementById(r))return;const o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];n=e.createElement(“script”),n.id=r,n.defer=!0,n.type=”module”,n.src=”https://playback.oovvuu.media/player/v2/index.js”,o.parentNode.insertBefore(n,o)}(document,0,”oovvuu-player-sdk-v2″);

Had they held on to beat Leinster last week, even without a bonus point, they would have made the quarter-finals. Had they beaten Ulster at Ellis Park in October, instead of a 37-38 loss, they would now be travelling to Leinster in a fortnight’s time.

Had their season not imploded during a five-match winless streak at the turn of the year, due to off-field issues of “antitrust” and sinking morale, their season objective of being in the top eight of the tournament would have been achieved.

In the end, they were their own worst enemies.

Against Zebre, the Lions played with the freedom of Loftus. Although they threw caution to the wind, their attacking play against the Italian outfit, as well as Leinster a week before, should be the roadmap they must follow when the URC restarts later this year.

!function(e,t,r){let n;if(e.getElementById(r))return;const o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];n=e.createElement(“script”),n.id=r,n.defer=!0,n.type=”module”,n.src=”https://playback.oovvuu.media/player/v2/index.js”,o.parentNode.insertBefore(n,o)}(document,0,”oovvuu-player-sdk-v2″);

They will need to tighten up their defence and decision-making in such a system, to be sure, but when the Joburgers play with such intent, they are a delight to watch. After the 50-35 victory on Saturday, Van Rooyen lamented what could have, would have, should have been.

“It is not the way we wanted to finish. To score 50 points and get five points, all the nice stuff, I still think we could have been more clinical,” said Van Rooyen.

“We are ninth on the log. There are a lot of should haves and could haves, and last week was one of them as well …

“The moment we played the way we wanted to, we again scored some incredible tries. The converse is also true — if we didn’t do what we wanted to, we led in a couple of soft ones as well.

“It is important for us to just close the gap — looking forward to next season — between our excellent and not so good.”

!function(e,t,r){let n;if(e.getElementById(r))return;const o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];n=e.createElement(“script”),n.id=r,n.defer=!0,n.type=”module”,n.src=”https://playback.oovvuu.media/player/v2/index.js”,o.parentNode.insertBefore(n,o)}(document,0,”oovvuu-player-sdk-v2″);

After another tumultuous season in Doornfontein, Van Rooyen’s contract is set to expire later this year. It remains to be seen whether the union will persist with the 40-year-old, look elsewhere for a new coach or promote one of his support staff.

“There are conversions with everyone regarding contracts and all of that,” Van Rooyen said.

“We will probably know in the next two or three weeks. At this stage it’s just Monday back to work.”

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

Latest news
Related news