Mallett on how Lions should tackle Christchurch final
Cape Town - Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has given the Lions advice on how they should approach this Saturday’s Super Rugby final against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Lions face an uphill task against a team that has lever lost a Super Rugby playoff game at home - the Crusaders have won all 20 of their home playoff matches since 1998.
Mallett was speaking in the SuperSport studio this past weekend after the Lions had reached the final with a 44-26 victory over the Waratahs at Ellis Park.
“You have to have a plan. It is all very well having belief, it gives you the ability to get off the ground and make tackles. But you have got to go in with a plan as to how you are going to handle the Crusaders. They have to take them on in the forwards. You cannot allow them to dominate. The Lions have the one pack in Super Rugby that can match the Crusaders. They have a guy in Malcolm Marx who is better than any of the Crusaders forwards. The Lions’ front row can match the Crusaders’ front row,” Mallett said.
However, the former Bok mentor warned that rattling the Crusaders was easier said than done.
“If you look at the Lions’ strengths in the last couple of weekends, they have been very good in the scrums and they have dominated with maul tries. If you look at their opposition next weekend, you have got Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, the flanks, Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett, all of them All Blacks. So, their strengths are going to be countered by the Crusaders’ strengths,” Mallett said.
“The forwards are an area which the Lions have always fallen back on when they face difficulty. If you are up against a team that counter your maul and you can’t dominate the scrum then it becomes more difficult for them to impose their pack and play onto the opposition.”
Mallett acknowledged that the travel factor would play a role but said it would not be the only stumbling block for the Lions.
“The more time you give a New Zealand side... if you stay on your advantage line and you don’t break the line... you wait for them to come to you and make double hits and turnovers... it is a passive defensive system that means you don’t get line breaks but you don’t put the opposition ball carrier under pressure,” he said.
“So, are they going to go up against the Crusaders, who have got some of the best decision-makers in the competition, and allow them time on the ball because they want a safety defence, or are they going to say let’s try and speed up our defence a little bit just to get in their face? The defensive system is going to be under pressure and the Lions strengths are going to be countered. That is what is going to make it difficult, other than the travel.”
When it came down to making a prediction, Mallett said: “I don’t think the Lions are going to win it, but they will be in it for 60 minutes.”