Lions: Lost in a wilderness
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
likely, looming recess for Super Rugby 2020 due to the coronavirus would
provide merciful relief in many ways for the embattled Lions.
Register your interest for the British & Irish Lions tickets in South Africa 2021
One of the
few major global sporting events still firing on most cylinders as things
stand, Saturday’s events in Auckland saw the Lions slip to a one-from-six
record as hosts the Blues earned a consummate 43-10 triumph.
It was the
usually only moderate New Zealand team’s fourth win in a row, and their third over
South African opponents as they had already claimed the away scalps of the
Bulls and Stormers.
consolation from a SA perspective is that the Blues won’t - at least in
ordinary season, if the competition does continue - get the chance for a clean
sweep of teams from our shores, as they don’t play the Sharks this year.
At least as
it stands, the Lions are due to play one more tour fixture against the Highlanders
in Dunedin next Saturday ... and their supporters would not have reason to be too
unhappy if it is called off.
Rooyen’s fragile charges have been soundly beaten on the safari by all of the
Waratahs, Rebels and now Blues, the latest reverse seeing them leak six tries
(to their own miserly one) along the way.
officially now the Johannesburg outfit’s worst start to a campaign since the
ill-fated 2012 season, when an opening-round victory over the Cheetahs was
followed by an 11-match losing streak and eventual last-place overall (15th)
with three wins from 16 fixtures.
were then dumped from the competition the following year, before re-entering it
in 2014 and slowly rebuilding themselves into a notable force between 2016 and
2018 when they were finalists each time - they look light years away from those
sorts of heights at present.
Blues match, the Lions were level-pegging with their 2015 early-campaign
performance with a one-from-five return, but the side of five years ago did win
their next match then, against the Rebels in Melbourne.
It is more
from a strategic and structural point of view than in terms of spirit,
arguably, that the present team look all at sea ... which puts the spotlight quite
glaringly on their inexperienced brains trust.
still have a certain desire and willingness was demonstrated at Eden Park by
the fact that a near-cricket score looked on the cards when the free-running
Blues - loving the raggedness of the Lions’ first line of defence - notched
their sixth dot-down soon after the start of the final quarter.
then achieved a very minor moral “triumph” by ensuring no further
haemorrhaging, although the main damage had long been done.
powerhouse Rieko Ioane was very much to the fore in the Blues’ repeated,
high-octane raids, his pace and explosiveness at outside centre (where he seems
to be enjoying a new lease of life) just being too much for the physically unremarkable
Lions back division - Ioane was responsible for a brace of tries.
were still at the races for a fair period of the first half, though, the Lions
did themselves no favours with some questionable decision-making ... like opting
to kick for the corner (and then winning a fatally too sloppy lineout that
dragged them backwards) when captain Elton Jantjies really should have banged
over a kick to nose them 10-8 ahead in the 26th minute.
porous moments on defence, however, were really what buried the Lions.
commentator and former All Black scrumhalf Justin Marshall observed at one
stage: “With (so many) missed tackles ... that does not help in terms of getting
your game-plan going.”
suitably contrite afterwards: “Psychologically, our (lack of) discipline cost
us. We have got to take ownership, do things better.”
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing