The Lions will continue to experiment on attack and Dick Muir’s confident they’ll improve on their disastrous defensive display against the Chiefs.
The Lions face the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday, a side renowned for their attacking prowess and who last week broke the shackles and put seven tries past the Force. The Australians were admittedly poor in their one-on-one tackles, but nowhere near as bad as the Lions who leaked nine to the Chiefs.
Muir refused to blame individuals for the defensive calamity, even though both sides missed 47 in total during the 80 minutes at Ellis Park on Friday. Last year the Lions had the worst defensive record in the Super 14, where they conceded 56 in 13 matches under Loffie Eloff, where a lack of fitness and discipline hampered their ability in this area.
But when brought in as a consultant, Jake White prioritised defence and discipline during last year’s Currie Cup. In a matter of weeks they held the third best defensive record and didn’t concede a bonus point during the campaign. Despite this, Muir said the defensive structures aren’t in place.
‘We know we have to tighten up in defence,’ Muir told keo.co.za. ‘It’s a systems problem, not the individuals involved. We worked on it quite a bit in Tuesday’s practice [their first in New Zealand after arriving late on Monday night], and I’m sure we’ll see improvement in that regard.
‘Defence is the major area of improvement I’m looking at, but I’m also looking at our decision-making and patience on attack. We can’t force those passes.’
As it was in the Eloff-era, the Lions’ frantic approach doesn’t aid their defence, especially against sides such as the Chiefs and Canes who thrive off turnovers and against unset defensive lines.
Muir said he wouldn’t necessarily encourage his players to play for territory more, even though they’ve repeatedly been caught in possession on the counter, costing them points against the Stormers and Chiefs.
‘Ja well, we’re always looking to improve in all aspects,’ he said when asked about their tactical kicking. ‘It’s about getting the balance right between attacking and defending.
‘But with our inexperienced side, I want us to try things and see what happens. I’ll be pleased if we have tried things, as we’re just getting used to one another.
‘We all know how good a guy like Carlos Spencer is. The more the players understand him, the better for the team.’
Meanwhile, Muir wasn’t willing to divulge any details regarding his team to be announced on Thursday. Willem Stoltz has been banned for a week after elbowing Aled de Malmanche, but Muir said Jacques Lombaard won’t necessarily be the replacement.
‘I haven’t made a final call, but George Earle may start, we have a lot of confidence in him.’
By Grant Ball