Cape Town - Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett believes the Hurricanes’ mastery of the wet conditions enabled them to floor the Lions in the Super Rugby final.
The Hurricanes won their first Super Rugby title when they beat the Lions 20-3 in a wet Wellington on Saturday.
“The Hurricanes played against a strong Lions defence, but they were more comfortable on the ball in the wet weather. The pick-and-goes from their forwards were effective as was (scrumhalf) TJ Perenara’s use of the blindside. They also kicked well into space, much better than the Lions,” Mallett said in the SuperSport studio after the game.
“The Hurricanes’ rush defence in that wet weather was effective, because it placed the Lions under time pressure. It is more difficult to control the ball in hand, whereas in dry conditions they’d have more time on the ball. The Lions were being tackled two metres behind the advantage line today, so there was never any momentum.”
According to Mallett, the Lions got their tactics wrong.
“You’ve got to go downfield in order to get that running and passing game going, so by going backwards slowly, the Lions were forced to kick. Their kicks were defensive kicks under pressure whereas a lot of the Hurricanes’ kicks were after the forwards had gone forward, allowing the flyhalf to take it to the line to make accurate attacking kicks. There was a big difference in the quality of ball the two halfback pairings got from their forwards.
“(Flyhalf) Elton Jantjies should have been in a better position to clear for touch or (scrumhalf) Faf de Klerk should have cleared from the base of the ruck before the Hurricanes’ first try. And when defending 10m from your line, the last ball a scrumhalf wants to get is a hacked tap-back ball into your in-goal area. Those two Hurricanes tries came off Lions errors and if they had rectified that, it would have been a penalty kicking game.
Despite their loss, the season was still a success for the Lions, Mallett said.
“As long as the Lions retain their players, they can sustain their progression. With some really good SA Schools players going to the union, their recruitment is going well. It’s been a great season for the Lions, unfortunately they played in conditions they are not used to. A dry Ellis Park is completely different from a wet and windy Wellington. It just looked like the Hurricanes were more comfortable playing in those conditions, especially Beauden Barrett, whose kicking was outstanding.”