- Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen was philosophical over the two yellow cards shown to his lock pairing of Willem Alberts and Marvin Orie, which knocked the stuffing out the team’s effort.
- Their sanctions were part of a broader theme of the Lions conceding a staggering 21 penalties in the match.
- Despite the defeat, Van Rooyen is proud over the marked improvement shown by his charges since lockdown.
A penalty count of 21 to 10 painted a nasty picture of the Lions’ discipline in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final loss to the Bulls, something Ivan van Rooyen, head coach, acknowledged cost them dearly.
Things spiralled out of control in the second half in particular, when the lock pairing of Marvin Orie and Willem Alberts both received yellow cards for cynical infringements within three minutes of each other.
While Orie’s sanction was expected after he’d been penalised a few moments before for his high tackle, Alberts’ felt innocuous if justified, the burly veteran deliberately not backing away ten metres from a Bulls penalty.
“I’d have to go check a bit again on Marvin’s incident and yeah, Willem wasn’t back 10m. I don’t really know what to say,” said Van Rooyen following the 21-26 defeat.
“I can sit here and tell you it was perhaps harsh or it wasn’t, it’s not going to make a difference to be honest. But to play with 13 guys, you’re definitely up against it.”
The Lions mentor’s train of thought extended to the overall count as he noted that such ill-discipline wouldn’t have brought his team anywhere tangibly anyway.
“First off, I don’t think you’ll win any game when you concede 21 penalties,” said Van Rooyen.
“What happens when you concede penalties of that nature is that you give opposition momentum and when that happens, the referee blows harsher anyway, which is normal.
“That’s our own fault, not Rasta’s. We just have to fix it in future.”
The Lions were also criticised afterwards from some quarters over perceived tactical naivety, especially in the first half when they were intent on running with the ball.
Van Rooyen is known as a coach who preaches balance, but he was reluctant to say that his charges were too eager to run everything back at the Bulls.
“We’ll definitely have a look at our decision-making. There were one or two times that we tried to force things in our own half and that was unnecessary,” he said.
“When we managed to look after the ball, we did make good metres. So I don’t think we went to (an expansive approach) too early. It’s just that when we get there, can we keep the pressure up? It’s a work in progress.”
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Despite the disappointment, Van Rooyen reminisced fondly over a challenging but ultimately fruitful season.
“If we’re honest, the last ten months were very interesting. Looking where we were in Super Rugby, there were some real voids in the way we wanted to play, but sitting here, I can safely say we’ve really improved,” he said.
“We understand better how we want to play. Our defence is much improved, our set-piece is good. We’ve really grown, we’re playing good rugby and that’s why this defeat hurts.
“But we’ll be stronger for it.”