Johannesburg — Albert van den Berg was in a reflective mood on Tuesday, as he spoke to the media, regarding the Emirates Lions recent loss to the Sharks, espousing a holistic view as the Joburgers prepare for their upcoming United Rugby Championship clash against the Bulls this weekend.
The Lions, in their 47-37 loss this past weekend, were guilty of making small errors at crucial times — a knock on here; a missed line-out there; a forward pass into space; or an incorrect decision in the heat of the moment. It would have no doubt been frustrating to watch after three weeks of in-camp prepwork, but the Lions assistant coach revealed that although it was the players that made those mistakes, it was the entire unit — from the management down — that must and has taken responsibility.
“We had a good look at ourselves as coaches, and where we have dropped the ball,” said Van den Berg.
“We went down to the team and we said, ‘listen, all those soft moments actually come from preparation and everyone not being on the same page’. We’ve got our game (strategy) and we must make sure everyone understands the gameplan and that we actually stick to the gameplan.
“Obvioulsy, you have to play what is in-front of you but there are times when you have to stick to a gameplan and you make sure that you build an innings, so that you can do something that is out of the norm. We do have some senior players that will make the call on the field but is all about them understanding the gameplan and where we are in the moment …
“We have done our homework as coaches and it starts with us. Let’s make sure we get a proper gameplan that is carried over to the players, and from there they can work on that.”
On Saturday (kick-off 3pm) that gameplan might involve an arm-wrestle of note up-front. The Bulls will be licking their wounds after their recent loss to the Stormers at Loftus, while the Lions are desperate to give their URC challenge a foundation upon which to build momentum.
The tussle between the packs this weekend, therefore, could be the highlight of the encounter at Emirates Airline Park. The Lions are enjoying a purple patch in that specific department and are arguably the best scrummagers amongst the SA franchises.
Even so, a pragmatic Van den Berg stayed clear of dubbing his forwards, especially his front-row, as such.
“It is difficult to say if it is the specific area for us,” said Van den Berg.
“I believe we have a relatively good scrum and we are in a position to take them on in that but a guy should never underestimate them. The Bulls lost at Loftus, and I am sure that they are hurting and they will be coming here to prove something.
“They are a good team, they have a good pack and the scrums are just one department. If we can find an advantage there, then we will definitely target it … The opportunity is there for us when we scrum.”
Meanwhile, loose-forward Vincent Tshituka is expected to be out for a couple of months due his continued rehabilitation from a shoulder injury, according Van den Berg. "He is doing some work off-the-field for us,” the coach revealed, “but I don’t think he will be back for us within the next six week.”
Reinhard Nothnagel also continues his rehab from injury, and will be out of action for the next six to eight weeks.
Moreover, Van den Berg revealed that he expects that the same pack of forwards will be selected for this weekend’s clash.
“It is still early for us,” he said. “We do have a couple of niggles in the team and we are going to look at that, and make a call on Thursday with our final selection.”