- Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie is starting to see green sprouts in terms of the team's marking, believing they're already "100% better" than last season.
- For Fourie, a legendary Bok centre, attitude on defence instead of overthinking a system is far more important for long-term success.
- He also hopes the confidence derived from last week's win over the Ospreys now translates into consecutive victories on the road.
Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie believes the Lions' marking has been "100% better" already in this season's fledgling URC season than in last year's inaugural campaign.
Despite conceding four tries in last weekend's 28-27 victory over the Ospreys, it was a marked improvement in the men from Doornfontein's tackling as the robustness of their hits eventually troubled their Welsh hosts.
And that's what Fourie, a legendary Springbok midfielder, has been preaching all along.
In the end, attitude outweighs too much structure.
"I can never fault the guys' effort. From the first whistle, every time we made contact, it was big contact. So, I can't fault the guys. Now we just need to work together," he said, ahead of Friday night's meeting with Cardiff.
"As the game went on, we started working together as a team and as a unit, and in the second half, they started playing deeper and deeper and kicking more."So, I think they felt it. I think we were hurting them a little bit."
There's an interesting debate to be had over the Lions' defending, to be honest.
While Fourie has always been at the front of the line to acknowledge that the team can improve its prowess in that regard, one has to question whether their defence has really been as bad as many perceive it to have been.
Conceding 55 tries in last season's edition meant the Lions were the leakiest defence in the South African Shield, yet seven other teams still let in more than they did.
At the very least, it suggests there's something to work with.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Henco van Wyk, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Quan Horn, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Emmanuel Tshituka, 6 Sbu Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Pieter Jansen van Vuren, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Zander du Plessis
"Looking back to last year, I think we are 100% better. It's our second year in the system, and I think the guys are only now really coming into it and understanding it the way the coaches want them to understand it," said Fourie.
"We have been putting a lot of time into it, 20% of the game is set-piece and 80% is unstructured, so we are spending a lot of time on our unstructured even scramble defence and the 20% on vacuum defence and lineout defence."From there on, it's just defending what's in front you - going up, making tackles, slowing their ball down."
Fourie also hopes his troops' newfound confidence in caging their opposite numbers translates into something really tangible, like consecutive victories on the road.
"We know when we tour, we need to start well. Last year, we were probably out by two games, and if we won them, we could have been in a quarter-final."So, we need to take our chances overseas, and we need to have a solid start when we get back home as well."
Kick-off in Cardiff is at 20:35 (SA time) on Friday.