There were quite a few errors and loose moments, and two of their tries was scored against 14 men. This weekend they will face a enemy of a whole other nature. And it is a enemy that play in a way that is a specific threat to the fine coordination, timing and tempo that the Lions enjoys.
This try the Lions concede on Saturday is a shadow of what is coming from the Hurricanes. The Canes smash the Lions twice in 2016 just by getting up fast and aggressive into their lines and disrupting them.
It lead to intercepts, mistakes, panic and a total breakdown of their phase play. So today I wanted to look at moments from the Sharks game that can show a way forward for how they can deal with what is coming.
It is no use to run the ball if the Canes is waiting in the sprinting blocks to rush up. So if we can make them go in reverse first then we take the sting out of it – it is hard to rush forward if your offside line is moving backwards.
So the Lions must use their prime beef in the narrow channels to push the Canes back. As we see above with Ruan and two tight forwards, this also suck in defenders and hopefully create better conditions so the midfield can make magic.
Fans hates big players and direct play but we need to get that defence going backwards first to get time and space to make sexy moves.
If the Lions pack can dominate and create quick, clean ball then Elton can cause trouble. The Lions loves to attack in midfield and I believe that the Canes is potentially vulnerable here.
It is one thing to be aggressive on defence, but it is another thing to co-operate and be patient. As we see above, Elton have a incredible ability to play flat and late and that mean the inside defence must wait to see what is going to happen, they can not drift or push.
That create uncertainty and spacing problems outside that the Lions backs can exploit. The Hurricanes aggression sometimes make them sloppy and Elton will be key to exploit this.
If a dog keep chewing the carpet then you must roll a newspaper and smack him on the nose – punish the rush by kicking into the space behind it! We always say this but people do not do it enough.
Elton must make a statement early by chipping when they come up. This will create uncertainty for the next rush and present the Canes defence with multiple challenges.
The value we talking about here is tactical but also psychological. The Hurricane defence identity is base on aggression, so if we take that away and bring in doubt then we are starting to put our will on our opponent and not the other way around.
But Elton can not do it on his own and the fact is the Canes know if they can rattle him then it is game over. They have done it before.
They will rush and try to force him into early passes or catch him ball-and-all. So something encouraging I see in the Sharks game was guys running short lines off Elton’s shoulders.
The short ball to Kwagga above is a perfect example. Not only is it important because Elton know he have a emergency escape option next to him, but the Canes actually open themself up to linebreaks with this kind of aggressive targeting.
I want to mention Harold specifically because I think he will make a big difference on Saturday by the way he read the game, the lines he choose and the timing of his runs. The Canes has never faced him before and I think he is the perfect guy to exploit their aggression.
In the picture above we see Elton waiting to get the ball from Cronje. Harold is also there, and he will actually sprint right past Elton to aim at a hole he see near the ruck. Cronje see him in time and hit him with a flat pass for a big gain.
Even Elton was surprise to see Harold run past him and grabbing the ball but it was great vision and a great call. Because of hasty nature of Canes defence, I predict Harold will have a big say on Saturday.
Another guy I want to single out is Malcolm Marx. He have a incredible ability to stay on his feet and make meters even when faced with multiple defenders.
He is a absolute rock in the face of tacklers and is a one-man rush defence killer. It is not nice to rush into a brick wall! In the picture above Malcolm charge forward and make a gain against three Shark defenders.
The Lions tends to use him in the wider channels and that is good because his presence there will give them a safe carry. Against the Canes aggression Malcolm can be like a calm port in a storming sea.
Ok guys, that is just some things to think about and look forward to. We hope the Lions come to the party and give coach Ackers the farewell season he deserve!
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.