McKenzie inspires Lions
Johannesburg – “The Lions find themselves in a similar position to where the Reds were last year.”
With those words Reds coach Ewen McKenzie brought some comfort to the Lions after the Australian side beat them 41-26 at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday night.
Not even a return to their home ground could help the Lions finally get a victory in this year’s Super 14.
On top of that the Reds scored six tries as they recorded their second victory out of three games on their South African tour.
Muir’s first season as coach of the Lions has not been an improvement on what was achieved under previous coach Eugene Eloff.
Like Muir, McKenzie also took on his coaching job this year and has had to work with a relatively young and inexperienced team.
However, the Reds have surprised friend and foe alike with their form and are definite semifinal contenders.
McKenzie said he had spoken to Muir last week about the Lions’ current plight.
“You cannot make direct comparisons. We exposed our players to Super 14 rugby from a young age. There are young players coming through at the Lions and they have several players in the South Africa under-20 team,” said McKenzie.
“The challenge is to keep those players here. I think that can be achieved,” the former Wallaby prop added.
McKenzie agrees that it will not happen overnight, but believes that the new management under the presidency of Kevin de Klerk can make a difference. He also does not believe the players’ age is an important factor.
“I have coached more experienced teams than the Reds. The Lions are where we were last year. We also played exciting rugby then, but defence was a problem. That can be repaired. With some initiative on attack and better defence they can become a good team,” said McKenzie.
It was the Lions’ poor defence that again proved costly on Saturday night.
The Reds scored four tries inside the first 17 minutes, with wing Rod Davies bagging a brace.
Not even a spirited effort in the second half was enough to prevent a defeat.
“We’ll have to look at ourselves. We came back refreshed after a week’s rest and they scored four tries in the blink of an eye,” said Muir.
“We’ll have to get back on our feet for an important game against the Sharks. They would have drawn confidence from our performance (against the Reds).”
Muir said that the Lions would be appointing a defence coach soon.
“We wanted to appoint Ray Mordt in the pre-season, but decided to rather focus on other areas. We did not realise how we had fallen behind in terms of defence. It’s not the system, but individuals missing tackles,” he said.
Flyhalf Carlos Spencer is not performing well, but Muir will have to wait a few more weeks before Burton Francis has recovered from a stomach muscle injury.