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    'Lazy' Lions lashed after latest reverse

    2020-03-07 13:26

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Springbok television pundits have laid into the Lions after the two-match Australian leg of their Super Rugby tour ended fruitless on Saturday.

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    The once-luminary side, three-time finalists between 2016 and 2018, were soundly beaten 37-17 by the Melbourne Rebels, a follow-up to their 29-17 setback against a shaky Waratahs side for whom that was their only success in five so far.

    It means that Ivan van Rooyen's charges shift onward to a further two matches in New Zealand, usually the more difficult part of the trek across the Indian Ocean for South African sides, without even a losing bonus point to show from either outing ... and also a one-from-five record at this bend in the 2020 road.

    What's more, first opponents the Blues (the others are the Highlanders a further week onward) are on a rare roll: they have beaten the Bulls, Stormers and Hurricanes in succession - and all away.

    The Lions always seemed to be playing catch-up rugby at AAMI Park, going a debilitating 15-0 down in the first half before a burst of energy before half-time saw them close the gap to 15-10 at the break.

    But when powerhouse No 8 Isi Naisarani thundered over three minutes into the second period, to restore a 12-point advantage for Dave Wessels' outfit, the men from Johannesburg hardly appeared likely from there to engineer enough attacking oomph for a turnaround triumph.

    This is the worst five-match start to a Lions season since 2015, when they lost to the Hurricanes (home), Sharks (away), Stormers (home) and Crusaders (away), but had sneaked a 13-10, start-of-overseas-tour victory over the Blues at Albany.

    They recovered to still end a respectable eighth overall that year, albeit outside the playoffs zone, and will do well from here to repeat that sort of fightback.

    Back in the SuperSport studio on Saturday, there were fairly grim verdicts on their Melbourne showing from all of past Bok stars Odwa Ndungane, Victor Matfield and Breyton Paulse.

    "Some things have been letting them down all season," lamented Ndungane. "They just can’t get their defensive systems correct ... the attack is also not effective enough.”

    Decorated lock figure Matfield was less diplomatic: "They need to get their attitude right, for one thing.

    "(This season) they don't seem to have the players to play a quick game, and may have to change strategy ... the Lions used to outrun everyone; there's not enough speed or work rate in their present pack."

    Paulse, meanwhile, noted: "The players seem too crammed up, and also look lazy in tracking back. They have got to find ways to be better, as this is unacceptable."

    Auckland next Saturday could be a tall order for immediate Lions improvement, and potentially only blow their campaign right out of the water ...

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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    Fixtures

    Friday, 03 April 2020
    • Crusaders v Blues, Orangetheory Stadium 08:05
    Saturday, 04 April 2020
    • Chiefs v Bulls, FMG Stadium Waikato 05:45
    • Brumbies v Hurricanes, GIO Stadium 10:15
    • Stormers v Waratahs, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airline Park 17:15
    • Jaguares v Rebels, Estadio Jose Amalfitani 23:40
    Sunday, 05 April 2020
    • Sunwolves v Reds, Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium 07:15

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