Lions search for elusive consistency

rugby23 April 2024 07:20| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Lions © Gallo Images

Banish the inconsistency and the rewards are there.

There can’t be a clearer message for the Emirates Lions after their impressive win over a second-string Leinster side last weekend, and as they gear up for Munster’s arrival at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon.

The Lions are currently placed 11th, but just a point behind the top eight at the moment, and moving up into that bracket would allow them to not only qualify for the Investec Champions’ Cup but also make the playoffs of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

But they face a tough task against the defending champions, even though that may not be their biggest issue when it comes to performance.

The Lions have consistently been unable to put together a string of good performances, with inconsistency plaguing them over the past few seasons, especially when it mattered most.

Their recent incredible win with 14 men over Connacht was a perfect example, where they showed amazing resolve and grit to score the first South African win in Galway, only to follow it up with disappointing performances against Ospreys and Benetton (the latter being their exit in the EPCR Challenge Cup).

The hope that the consistency could be there is a massive one as they will need it going into the final run of weeks and certainly need a home victory over Munster in the process if they are to keep their own hopes alive, as well as do the Bulls and Stormers a massive favour in the process.

What precisely brings about that inconsistency is cause for debate at the Lions as they have been building a good squad with some incredible talent over the past few seasons. But they inevitably failed when they needed to fire.

Coach Ivan van Rooyen chose to see it differently, saying the team produces good performances when their backs are against the wall. But that doesn’t answer the question why they force themselves into a corner every few months.

“Every time we have been ‘backs against the wall’ this season, we got a good performance,” Van Rooyen said.

“The trick is to reproduce that next week against Munster.”

Despite their big win, the Lions know their defence came to the fore in the win over Leinster and a lot of work still needs to be done, especially given Munster’s win at Loftus Versfeld and the fact they have been on the highveld for more than a week now.

“We have to ensure we keep that game model identity. When we get that right, we are dangerous. We must also ensure we do our basics very well.”

The Lions have shown glimpses of what they can do when their engine gets running. The trick now is to try and make it consistent.

If they do that they may well give themselves a decent shot at playoffs, and all the rewards that come with it.