Lions leap to Stormers' defence

Defence coach Joey Mongalo of the Lions during the Emirates Lions Mixed Zone at Johannesburg Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Defence coach Joey Mongalo of the Lions during the Emirates Lions Mixed Zone at Johannesburg Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Lions defence coach Joey Mongalo leapt to the defence of the Stormers in the build-up to their Super Rugby clash at Newlands on Saturday.

Mongalo pointed to mitigating circumstances which helped contribute to the 40-3 humbling the Stormers suffered at the hands of the Bulls last Saturday.

“Having heard about them being stuck in traffic and the things that happened to them in the build up to the game‚ maybe not that surprised‚” said Mongalo in reference a the truck carrying washing powder spilling its load across the N1 thus delaying kick-off by 20 minutes.

He has no doubt the Stormers will be desperate to atone this week.

“You know how South Africans react to tough times. We love bouncing back.

"They will play with enthusiasm in those first 20 minutes in front of their home ground‚” said Mongalo.

Fellow assistant coach Neil de Bruin concurred that the home side will be burning to do better.

“Whenever you play against the Stormers in Cape Town they will be up for it. They’re a proud bunch‚ a proud union.”

The Lions‚ however‚ prefer to gaze inward and Mongalo was particularly pleased with the team’s defensive performance in their 25-16 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

“Asked to make 200 tackles and to complete that at 93 percent was very rewarding.

"Also the character shown by the guys two or three times on our tryline. That was them fighting for each other‚” said Mongalo.

Mongalo was keen to dispel a myth about the Lions’ defence last year.

“I have to say‚ there is a perception that we were massively poor in defence last year‚" he said.

"That doesn’t make sense because we were fifth in the competition and first in the South African conference on defence.

"It is always an emphasis as any other part of our game to try and make that better.”

As well as the Lions repelled the spirited Jaguares‚ Mongalo believes they can be even better in knocking the ball carrying opposition back.

“We will probably try and keep the ball a bit longer. We always talk about sticking to the things that we want to do and not the end result‚” said Mongalo.

De Bruin also fingered potential areas for improvement.

“We spoke about a lack of fluency on attack. We’ve been introducing some new systems. I’m 100 percent sure the coach will rectify that this week.

De Bruin agrees the win in Buenos Aires would has emboldened the Lions.

“It gives us a bit of confidence and a bit of momentum going into a rebound match for the Stormers in Cape Town. Maybe not the most complete performance but definitely some character and some heart shown‚” said De Bruin.

It is a view shared by Mongalo.

“The win was massive from a history making point of view‚" he said.

"We have to go again now. We’ve made history but now we have to put that behind us.”

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