Super Rugby

Elton hopes Lions' roar at scrum-time shows 'we're good enough'

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The Bulls Duane Vermeulen (C) getting the attention of the referee during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between the Emirates Lions and the Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airlines Park stadium in Johannesburg, on November 7, 2020. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze / AFP)
The Bulls Duane Vermeulen (C) getting the attention of the referee during the Super Rugby Unlocked match between the Emirates Lions and the Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airlines Park stadium in Johannesburg, on November 7, 2020. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze / AFP)
  • The Lions have potentially laid down an important marker in terms of rediscovering their scrumming mojo after a fine showing against the Bulls.
  • Despite their reputation as one of the strongest scrumming units over the past five years, 2020 has been difficult in that set-piece.
  • But skipper Elton Jantjies hopes the performance convinces his pack that they can compete with the best.

Despite never lowering their emphasis on it, there have been some suggestions in 2020 that the Lions have lost their scrumming mojo.

They were the worst-performing scrum statistically in this year's truncated Super Rugby campaign and there have been a few hiccups since local rugby's resumption again.

Yet so compelling was the Lions' scrumming against the Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday night that it's easily the type of showing that could see them go into overdrive again, much like the heydays under Johan Ackermann.

"It's definitely a performance that can provide us with a lot of momentum," said skipper Elton Jantjies following a narrow 25-30 loss.

"The pack really stood up nicely in this game. It's actually one of our strengths. A lot of the chat has been around the set-piece and mauling and how we perform in those areas but we've been excellent, it's just soft moments that we need to address."

The Lions thrice put the pedigreed Bulls scrum that included Jacques van Rooyen, Trevor Nyakane and Jason Jenkins in reverse, even making the front row pop up.

It truly was a feather in the cap for a pack whose most experienced member is a 28-year-old hooker (and former Bull) Jaco Visagie.

"It's good that we had this game. I've said it before," said Jantjies.

"There was going to be a lot of learnings. The biggest lesson I hope we've learnt is that we really are good enough and that we keep on believing. Naturally, there are still a few areas where we can improve."

While a youthful Lions combination can still work on playing the percentages better, there's little doubt that a fine effort up front added a lot of value to an already firing attack.

"At the end of the day, there's real pressure on that field and you have to lay a platform first," said Ivan van Rooyen, head coach.

"We've scored some blinders in Super Rugby Unlocked already and scored some good tries in this game too. That was down to the pressure we created and may we continue to do that, with or without ball in hand."

That was no more evident than in the build-up to centre Burger Odendaal's opening try, where patient phase play and a brilliant pick-up from No 8 Len Massyn saw fullback Gianni Lombard go on a fine angled run and fired a brilliant scoring pass.

There was also a breathtaking score from the gifted midfielder Wandisile Simelane, who stepped and essentially dragged himself over the line after a lightning counter-attack from wing Courtnall Skosan.

"We changed things up after we met under the posts when the Bulls scored points. It was good to see that plan coming together. It showed that we're adaptable," said Jantjies.

"Hats off to the boys in the build-up to that try." 

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