- Lions assistant coach Philip Lemmer believes teams shouldn't focus on trying to master the troublesome breakdown interpretations.
- Instead, the collisions and rucks guru says the team is equipping the players with tools to "paint the picture" that referees want to see as each's interpretations differ.
- Lemmer hopes the Lions can harness the momentum created from two consecutive victories to push for a play-off berth.
Philip Lemmer, the Lions' rucks and collisions coach, is sceptical over whether local teams have truly tamed the beast that is the new breakdown interpretations.
Super Rugby Unlocked's earlier rounds were riddled with teams conceding a litany of penalties at the breakdown as the players struggled to adapt to referees who are now expected to improve the flow of the game as pertinently as possible.
While the situation improved over time, Lemmer argues that the sheer complexity of those laws means it's perhaps better to get a picture of what a relevant referee wants than attempting to master the laws overall.
"The breakdown is such a technical area with so many pitfalls," said the former national wrestler.
"A player comes in at an angle and he gets penalised. He falls awkwardly and can't roll away - penalised. Or doesn't stretch his arms long enough, gets blown. It's those technical stuff that makes things difficult for teams because it means a penalty can go either way because of the way the referee saw it."
As a result, feedback from the arbiters is key.
"What we've found is that if one works hand-in-hand with the referees, you become more aware of the picture that they are seeing," said Lemmer.
"And if you equip your players weekly to paint the picture that the referees want to see, the risk of being penalised decreases and the chance of keeping the ball becomes bigger."
The Lions were reasonably successful in that mission already in Unlocked, winning 93% of their rucks and have been disciplined to date in the Currie Cup too.
That bodes well for the crucial period that lies ahead, starting with Saturday's trip to Bloemfontein to face the Cheetahs.
"Given that we lost three matches by close margins to our (fellow PRO Rugby franchises), it was important for us to win against a big team at home, which we did against Western Province," said Lemmer.
"We now have some momentum, we need to keep it now. It won't be easy with teams like the Cheetahs, Sharks and Bulls left, but I really believe the last two weeks' victories have given us an ideal platform to really make a push for a play-off spot."
Kick-off in Bloemfontein is at 16:30.