Lions admit they are in a 'bit of a Catch 22'
Just because they have a new coaching staff‚ don’t expect the Lions to abandon the fast-paced game that helped take them to consecutive Super Rugby finals.
Joey Mongalo‚ the team’s backline and breakdown coach‚ believes the Lions have to tweak in some areas but that there was no reason to reinvent the wheel after Swys de Bruin graduated from assistant coach to head coach in place of Johan Ackermann.
“It’s a bit of a Catch 22‚” Mongalo admitted.
“Top business people always say that you have to innovate when you are at the top. You also can’t change for the sake of changing.
“I think if we 100 percent repeat what we have been doing it would be a mistake.
"I think for us it is simply to do what we have been doing but only do it better.”
Mongalo‚ who is part of a Super Rugby campaign for the first time‚ is happy with the way the team prepared for the new season.
“There have been a lot of encouraging things. We started on the fourth of January with physical testing.
"Every week after that we added more and more rugby components. Conditioning wise‚ the guys are in good shape.
“It has been good to see the improvement of the Currie Cup players.
"We’ve had a hybrid of those players and players who have been playing Super Rugby and it has been amazing to watch.
"To see how the younger guys are feeding off the more mature players‚ we are all seeing the same picture‚ clearer."
Mongalo said the Lions’ contingent who had obligations in Japan‚ including regular captain Warren Whiteley‚ are slowly being reincorporated into the squad.
“I know there are a whole lot of technical and contractual things that have to be signed before they can officially start. It is a case by case scenario.
“Everybody is back to do a medical and also just to be part of the family again."
The Lions have been spared major injury scares in their build up.
“We’ve been blessed thus far‚" he said.
"We’ve had guys who have been out for six to nine months but there haven’t been massive niggles in between.
"I know Andries Ferreira picked up an ankle injury which should clear up in the next few weeks. We’ve actually got quite a clean bill of health.
“We play the Bulls on Saturday and hopefully we can get through that without any setbacks.”
Speaking of which‚ Mongalo is expecting quite a shake-up at Loftus.
“I think some teams will be vastly different.
"If you look at the way the Bulls went in the Currie Cup they will be a lot more expansive‚ a lot more willing to run with the ball.
"They’ll also have to chase intensity‚ something Mitch (Bulls coach John Mitchell) has been talking about. I’m expecting them to be a completely different outfit.”
Mongalo believes the franchise which hasn’t won a trophy since 2010 has a lot to play for as they want to see Loftus full again.
“The Stormers have always had good individual players. As for the Sharks we always have a weak spot against them.
"We are expecting a massive battle against the Sharks in our opener on the 17th of February.”
With the competition reduced from 18 to 15 teams‚ Mongalo is expecting a sterner challenge all round.
“I expect every week to be challenging. With the Rugby World Cup coming up next year‚ a team like the Sunwolves will almost be the Japan national side.
“The New Zealand sides are always competitive‚ trying to lead trends. It will be interesting how they play because of late they have been conservative inside their own half.
"How will they vary their kicking and running game? Many people don’t realise they kick the ball more than most teams.
"They are pretty devastating off turn overs or poor kicks.
“The Australian sides are quite phase play orientated.
"They don’t mind to keep the ball in hand.”