Rudolph Jacobs
Rugby journalist
3 minute read
10 May 2021
12:54 pm

Five reasons the Lions are struggling in the Rainbow Cup

Rudolph Jacobs

One of the biggest blows to the team was losing experienced flyhalf general Elton Jantjies, who is currently playing in France.

Fred Zeilinga has struggled to fill the gap left by Elton Jantjies. Picture: Gallo Images

Many ideas have been put forward as to why the Lions are struggling to make headway in the Rainbow Cup SA competition.

The Sharks are currently in pole position with a maximum of 10 points after two bonus point wins, and they’re followed by the Bulls on eight points after two victories. The Stormers have two points after two close defeats and the Lions have one point, also after two defeats.

Here, we take a look at why the Lions are currently struggling so much …

No general at flyhalf

The Lions look direction-less in this area following the departure to France of Elton Jantjies. It’s no small coincidence that the Sharks and the Bulls are unbeaten with two generals in command in Curwin Bosch and Morne Steyn respectively.

Fred Zeilinga is struggling at No 10 and his failure to handle the pressure with his exits were again prominent in Durban when he kicked into one of his own players. That said, Zeilinga is also not getting the quality go-forward ball compared to what Bosch and Steyn are getting. His game management though is questionable and the Lions might have to look at Luke Rossouw and Jordan Hendrikse.

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Tight phases are not up to scratch

Two of the Lions’ most sound departments have been their lineouts and scrums but they are struggling in both these areas. At Loftus it was tightead Jannie du Plessis who battled, while in Durban even the highly rated Carlu Sadie came off second best against Ox Nche. This is a major concern at the moment.

The Lions’ maul has also come under the pump because their lineout ball hasn’t come back clean and the absence of lock Marvin Orie is sorely felt. Both the Bulls and the Sharks managed to disrupt the Lions’ lineout ball and it has a snowball effect on the Lions’ attack failing to fire.

Defence remains a work in progress

The Lions’ defence coach Sean Erasmus has done a wonderful job in rectifying the defence but there are still areas of concern. At Loftus the Lions conceded a try inside the opening two minutes and in Durban they were trailing 24-5 after the opening 30 minutes.

At Loftus the Lions did a great job in keeping the Bulls to a score of just 10-9 early on, but in the final 15 minutes the Lions fell apart to concede two vital tries.

Also, the ease with which the Sharks scored through centre Jeremy Ward and prop Thomas du Toit is a concern.

Lions defence coach Sean Erasmus

Lions defence coach Sean Erasmus. Picture: Gallo Images

The Lions’ attacking game is not what it used to be

The Lions have failed to create enough scoreboard pressure in both matches and they ended up chasing the game. There seems to be a lack of penetration in midfield and the Sharks did very well to cut off the flow of possession to the Lions’ most dangerous attacker in centre Wandisile Simelane.

Unfortunately the Lions seem to get desperate when they fall behind on the scoreboard and they seem to lack calm and patience. To their credit though, they scored four tries in Durban, but they were kept try-less at Loftus the week before.

The coaching team have come under scrutiny

The coaching staff are increasingly coming under fire for a lack of results. But it’s not just about the losses, but the manner in which the Lions are going down. At times the Lions look directionless and disjointed. They almost appear to be in two minds about whether to run or kick.

The loss of a senior group of players and injuries to the likes of lock Willem Alberts, flank Jaco Kriel and fullback Tiaan Swanepoel have been felt. The emergence of some young players is encouraging, but it seems the players are lacking confidence and the results are not helping.