What NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Super Rugby final in Christchurch.
‘The Lions can be really proud of their season. They had a lot of setbacks, leadership issues, injury issues to Warren [Whiteley] and [Malcolm] Marx and also a new coaching staff, losing a strong coaching group. To get through to the final was a great achievement even though it was aided and abetted by the [conference] system where they had a quarter-final and semi-final at home.
‘But there is no question the Crusaders were the best team in the competition and that they deserved to win today. The Lions did extremely well to get 69% territory and 59% possession. But the secret – the key difference between South African and New Zealand teams – is they got close to the line but just weren’t able to crack the defence. They scored two tries but had so many opportunities to do it. The Crusaders had far fewer opportunities but they took those. With a 19-point difference, it was a brave performance from the Lions, but the Crusaders deserved it in the end.
‘In New Zealand, they actually do measure effort. They have a statistician who takes every single player, when he makes a tackle or cleans a ruck, and measures the time he takes to get back on his feet. It has to be less than three seconds and every player has to have 85% of incidents when he is back on his feet in less than three seconds. So you can measure effort. It is how quickly you get back into the game on attack and defence. The Lions do it well as well. There is a spirit in this team where the Lions work very hard for each other, but the Crusaders are masters of it.
‘At the breakdown, Marx was so efficient in the quarter- and semi-finals, but I don’t think he made a single turnover today because the quality of the cleans by the Crusaders was so good that he didn’t get the opportunities he normally gets.
‘There was a counter-attack from [George] Bridge when Kwagga Smith came up too quickly and he managed to beat him. It is when the Crusaders get the opportunity, they finish it. Immediately they seem to up the pace of the game by 20 or 30%, players are running on to the ball, the scrumhalf is desperately getting to the ruck to speed up the delivery of the ball so that the defence can’t get into position.
‘I went down to New Zealand for a week at an academy. [Former All Blacks assistant] Wayne Smith was coaching the youngsters there. It was quite extraordinary, he was standing behind the backline and he would instruct the defence with signals, with coloured codes. So red was a press defence, orange was shift defence, green was three defenders up while two stay back, and they did the same move about 10 times. Each time he would ask the flyhalf what his teammates said to him from the outside, what information were you given about the defence. So they teach the attacking team to look and pass information inside, so the decision makers make better decisions. We need to do that more in this country.
‘The Lions have got to work really hard [going into next season]. They are losing experience, mainly to Gloucester where Johan Ackermann has set up shop. The problem is that you have to get these young players experienced. So Swys [de Bruin] has done really well. This year there was a question mark about how the Lions were going to do, and he has done fantastically to get them to a final.’
The Rugby Championship
‘Rassie [Erasmus] does have some quality [to choose from]. I think we are in a similar position to Australia in that, apart from the Lions, our teams haven’t performed particularly well. We have individuals that if you get together in a national side, we can put together a strong team, and a particularly strong pack of forwards to match the All Blacks. I am really positive about the Rugby Championship.’
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