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    Stats show Lions’ heroism

    2015-03-09 11:57

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Lions loose forwards Warren Whiteley, the captain, and Warwick Tecklenburg have catapulted up the rankings for tackles made in Super Rugby 2015 thus far.

    It is hardly surprising considering the bloody-minded defensive tenacity that was the key hallmark of their 13-10 disposal of the Blues in Albany to get their overseas leg off to a memorable start -- even if the game itself was significantly less than a classic.

    The whole theme of New Zealand media coverage of the game predictably revolved around under-fire Blues head coach John Kirwan, who now stands at nought from four in the win column this season and his charges bottom of the overall table.

    Expect the Lions, who broke their own early-season duck, not to be perturbed in the least by the description of them in the New Zealand Herald as “big lumps ... but that’s about it” as the newspaper branded the Aucklanders’ loss “a stinker” and one of the most disappointing in their history.

    Unjustly less trumpeted was the Lions’ amazing resolve and industry on defence in a clash where they had only about a quarter of territory and roughly a third of possession – they also made 178 tackles to the Blues’ mere 70.

    What the never-say-die commitment of the Jo’burgers did at Albany, even in back-pedalling so often, was ensure that they are strongly represented in the key tackle categories in the competition after four rounds.

    The Lions’ tackle success percentage now stands at 88.7, second only to the unbeaten Hurricanes (91.0) who had a bye in the latest round.

    Next best South African franchise on the closely-contested list are the improving Bulls (87.0), in seventh overall.

    In a reflection of their unexpectedly disappointing start to the season, with one win from four, the Sharks have the second worst tackle success percentage in the competition (83.7), only ahead of the Western Force with 82.7.

    Individually, No 8 Whiteley and versatile flanker Warwick Tecklenburg (comfortable both on the open and blindside) have advanced to second and joint-fourth respectively for tackles made.

    The skipper stands on 61 hits, just six behind the competition leader Lappies Labuschagne of the Bulls (67).

    Only non-South African among the top five, Jarrad Butler of the Brumbies, sports 50 tackles to lies third, whilst Tecklenburg, who continues to keep out an experienced trooper like Derick Minnie from the Lions starting XV, shares fourth on 47 with Bulls veteran Victor Matfield.

    The Lions move on to Christchurch for a meeting on Saturday (05:30 SA time) with the seven-time champions but also rather out-of-sorts Crusaders.

    Coach Johan Ackermann faces a dilemma over whether to rely on continuity from the Blues triumph, or tweak his combination considering the peculiarly energy-sapping nature of their maiden victory this year.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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