Lions v The Sharks Verdict


From Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine

ANOTHER match and another win for the Lions, but I am concerned that they will be mightily undercooked for the Test matches against South Africa as the opposition they are playing in the provincial games are so poor.

The Sharks were brave and they tackled hard, but they simply had nothing to offer with the ball in hand and it was only their bravery that stopped them slumping to more than the 39-3 record defeat.

Are these Lions any good? We simply don’t know at the moment as they haven’t faced any team that goes even close to being Test standard.

In the old days sides used to try and beat the Lions, but perhaps this is Peter De Villiers masterplan – lull the Lions into a false sense of security, by not releasing any of his Test players for the provincial games – and ensure they are not battle hardened some the Test matches. Perhaps it is working?

The Lions will almost certainly win all the provincial games on this showing, but on this tour they may not bear any relevance to the Test matches.

It is the same for South Africa, though, as De Villiers has ruled out any proper warm-up games for his side (except a run out against Namibia a couple of weeks ago when most of his players were on Super 14 duty) so we might be faced with two sides who are undercooked in Durban for the first Test on 20 June.

The most worrying sight for the Lions against The Sharks was seeing Jamie Roberts heading for the sidelines in the second half clutching his shoulder. Coach Ian McGeechan told the media afterwards it was nothing more than bruising. But he was clearly injured in the first half and should have been removed from the firing line immediately, especially as Riki Flutey was chomping at the bit for some game time.

Brian O’Driscoll was his usual world-class best, despite being hunted down in the second half, after taking an interception pass on the edge of his own 22.

And Mike Phillips has the physical game to take on Fourie du Preez.

Another worrying thing for the Lions was the way they failed – again – to get the rolling maul working. Referee Jonathan Kaplan – who failed to get a contest at the scrum – was unable to pick up the Sharks dropping the maul. Maybe the Lions would be better to abandon their plans for a mauling game and leave it to 2013?

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