Lions cannot explain Super Rugby dominance over SA teams

06 April 2018 - 11:46
By Liam Del Carme
The Emirates Lions head coach Swys de Bruin.
Image: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix The Emirates Lions head coach Swys de Bruin.

The Lions may be in possession of a winning recipe in derby matches but don’t ask them to identify its component parts.

Coach Swys de Bruin‚ who by his very nature treads carefully with a microphone in close proximity‚ seemed stumped when asked why the Lions have gone 19 matches unbeaten in the South African conference since May 2015.

“I was hoping that question would not be asked‚” said De Bruin.

“We haven't mentioned it to the players at all. They’ll read that in the newspaper. We are not thinking about that.

“We battle to beat the New Zealand sides. That should be the question. Maybe its a confidence thing‚ or maybe we know the (local) guys better.

“We’ve won close matches. It is a tough one to answer. I don’t know exactly why.”

What has helped since the last World Cup is the fact that the Lions have been far less afflicted by player departures than their domestic rivals.

They’ve been more settled‚ even though some of their elite players have taken up short-term contracts in Japan.

De Bruin may not know what has worked for them against their countrymen but he has a better grasp of what has made them tick in a more general sense.

Despite their unflattering record this season the Lions are sticking to their guns. They have a full throttle approach to the game but they had very little to show for it in last Sunday’s defeat to the Crusaders.

“We are not preparing differently‚” De Bruin emphasised. “We ticked all the boxes against the Crusaders.

“We’ve beaten them once in 10. It was a better performance from us. They had six All Blacks in that starting pack. They’re a quality side.

“We haven’t changed our philosophy. We are the leading try scorers in the competition with 35 tries. That’s five per game‚” reminded De Bruin.

What he didn’t say was that they have conceded the most points in the competition along with the Sunwolves‚ who admittedly have played two games fewer.

“We’ve won four and lost three and we need to go for maximum points this weekend. It’s at home‚ it’s before we tour. The pressure is there.

“We are still in it. We need to refocus and work on the things we know we can do‚” the coach said.

He acknowledged it was an important game to win against conference rivals but was loath to admit that they and the Stormers have reached the point of desperation.