Willem Alberts laments inexperience at the Lions

A few more grizzled men may have made a difference

31 January 2023 - 13:24
By Liam Del Carme
Willem Alberts of the Lions during their URC match against Connacht at The Sportsground in Galway.
Image: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Gallo Images Willem Alberts of the Lions during their URC match against Connacht at The Sportsground in Galway.

Veteran Lions forward Willem Alberts has lamented his team's lack of experience on their month-long tour that yielded three defeats and a solitary win.

The Lions suffered a 43-24 defeat at the hands of Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday evening which dropped the curtain on a taxing four-week odyssey.

They lost their United Rugby Championship matches against Munster and Connacht, as well as their Challenge Cup clash against Stade Francais. They did, however, beat the Dragons in the same competition to reach the round of 16.

Alberts contends a few more grizzled men might have made a difference on tour.

“We didn't have enough experience on tour,” Alberts said from Hamad International Airport in Doha where the team awaited their connecting flight to Johannesburg.

“We had a lot of young guys, players and coaching staff. We just have to do better next time.”

Alberts, who played 43 Tests between 2010 and 2016 and represented Stade Francais between 2015 and 2020, believes the Lions can learn valuable lessons from their month-long tour.

“You have to be able to play good rugby every week,” said Alberts.

“You have to be able to adapt to the conditions, training and playing conditions. We trained and played on artificial pitches,” said the former flanker who has settled into the second row.

At 38 Alberts is well in the winter of his career. Not that the Lions could afford to use him sparingly.

“Four weeks of touring and playing in all four games was awesome. My body is feeling good. It was great to be on tour. You never know when its going to be your last tour. You always have to tour like it is your last tour. We had a lot of fun off the field and got to play hard, though the results didn't go our way.”

He said the Lions were looking forward to be back in “the lovely sunshine”. In a wider context they can do with a few healthy rays.

After their defeats in Cork and Paris they slipped to 13th on the URC points table, nine points behind the eighth placed Sharks. The Sharks have played one match less.

The Lions will have to win all their remaining matches if they are going to play themselves back into contention for a place in the top eight.

At least they will have a run of home matches that starts on February 18 against the Sharks followed by the visit of Glasgow Warriors a week later. That game was supposed to be played earlier in the campaign but several Glasgow players fell in Durban.

The Lions then travel to the Bulls and Benetton before finishing their league commitments at home against Leinster and Zebre Parma.