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Lions looking to plug leaky defence

Fri, 20 Sep 2013 08:53
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We are giving away too many soft points
Quote-end

The Golden Lions may be the Currie Cup competition's leading try scores, by some distance, but they also have the leakiest defence.

Their 26 tries in six starts is well ahead of the 17 by the Sharks and Free State Cheetahs.

However, the Lions have also leaked an astonishing 19 tries.

As a result the Johannesburg-based outfit has won just two games and drawn another.

In two of their defeats they have also collected a losing bonus point, which means with better defence they may well have been placed much closer to the table-topping Western Province.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann, speaking ahead of his team's trans-Jukskei derby with the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday,  admitted that among his biggest concerns were defence and ball control.

"In the first half [of the 23-26 loss to the Cheetahs last week] we had three chances inside the first 10 minutes, where we lost the ball in contact or a handling error cost us," Ackermann told this website.

"There were incidents where we were just not accurate enough in the line-outs."

The Lions mentor said in games as intense as the Currie Cup competition, the tide can turn very quickly.

"They [the Cheetahs] got into our half once and [Johann] Sadie scored out wide."

That brought into play the other factor, defence.

"We simply have to work harder on defence and make teams work harder for their points," Ackermann told this website.

"At this stage we are giving away too many soft points - that is our biggest disappointment.

"It is fine when a team outsmarts you and gets points, but we conceded [soft] tries from a scrum.

"Our first phase defence, and even second and third phase, must be a lot better."

Ackermann, without pointing a finger at specific players, said it is often individuals who, "within the system", are not doing their work.

It is an aspect of the game the Lions addressed this week.

"Now is the time to make a step up in that regard," Ackermann said about his team's porous defence.

Despite the costly individual errors, Ackermann was not ready to throw any players on the scrap heap.

"The players are all at various stages in their careers," he said, adding: "Guys like Jacques van Rooyen, Robbie Coetzee and Warwick Tecklenburg are at the start of their [senior] provincial careers.

"They are just becoming regular Currie Cup players - they have the chance to establish themselves now.

"On the other side of the coin you have guys like [Springbok lock] Franco van der Merwe and [captain] Derick Minnie, who are seasoned Currie Cup players.

"Every player must take responsibility for his role in the team.

"You do expect more from certain players than others and you expect fewer mistakes from certain players.

"However, as a team and a unit we have to work better together and within that the individuals must do their jobs."

Ackermann said that, as a coach, he accepts there will be errors, as no person is perfect.

"As a coach you can accept that [some errors].

"However, those silly errors we make at crucial stage [in the game] we have to start cutting out very soon, regardless of the experience of the individuals.

"There are players gaining valuable experience and that is the great thing about the Currie Cup, it is a great place to school players for Super Rugby.

"Hopefully in the next week or so we'll show we've taken the lessons to heart and it won't cost us a place in the play-offs."

By Jan de Koning

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