United Rugby Championship

Lions coach Van Rooyen hails mental, defensive sharpness after Stormers win

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Ivan van Rooyen. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Gallo Images)
Ivan van Rooyen. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Gallo Images)
  • Lions coach Ivan 'Cash' van Rooyen said playing in a South African derby helped his team get tuned up emotionally.
  • The Lions beat the Stormers 37-19 at the Cape Town Stadium, scoring four tries in the process.
  • Van Rooyen also praised his team's defensive excellence.

Lions coach Ivan 'Cash' van Rooyen said the occasion of playing in an important South African derby like the one against the Stormers helped sharpen them up mentally.

It wasn't just their mental excellence that came to the fore, but their rugby prowess, too, after they crushed the Stormers 37-19 at the Cape Town Stadium in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash on Saturday.

Van Rooyen said adapting to their current circumstances had been difficult, but they'd needed to find a way after last week's matches were cancelled because of the outbreak of the Omicron Covid-19 variant in the country.

"In the last year and a half, we've learned to adapt because if you don't, you'll get stuck," Van Rooyen said.

"We'd given the guys three weeks off, and last week was cancelled, and that made things tough, but the occasion of a Stormers derby in Cape Town assisted us mentally.

"With the next game scheduled for early January, we knew we had 80 minutes to go flat out, and we're fortunate that things went our way."

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The lines weren't just sharp on attack, but were excellent on defence. The Stormers may have scored three tries, but they were prevented from scoring more by an aggressive Lions defensive line.

An example of the Lions' excellence was weathering a storm and turning the ball over while they were leading 27-12.

It left Van Rooyen feeling very warm inside.

"What happened near the try line showed the character of the team from a mental and physical perspective," Van Rooyen said.

"It displayed the willingness to improve and the willingness to fight, so I'm very proud of how the boys played.

"I don't want to say just in defence, but I feel like the guys are improving, and I feel like the defence was the point of difference."

Despite the brilliance of their tries, Van Rooyen said their lack of rugby in the past month and a half blunted their attacking sharpness.

"There were a few errors from both sides, especially on attack and we're delighted come away with the win," Van Rooyen said.

"We haven't played in about seven weeks, and it was a decent showing from the guys and a decent game for the spectators."

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