Johannesburg - “It was probably worse watching for us, than it was for you,” said a dejected Sigma Lions coach Mziwakhe Nkosi on Wednesday night after the Pumas had thumped his young charges 50-9 at home.
And Nkosi, along with the team’s supporters, have every right to be downcast after a third consecutive defeat to the Nelspruit-based team in the Currie Cup, and their second loss in this tournament's campaign. It was an error-strewn performance from an undoubtedly talented Lions outfit at Emirates Airline Park but, moreover, the entire performance was uninspiring and torpid, especially from a group of players that have much to prove.
“We were just inaccurate and the more inaccurate we became and the more errors we made, the more it sucked the energy out of us,” said Nkosi of the outing.
“It then became difficult to come back. The Pumas scored two tries against the run of play; we found ourselves behind with scoreboard pressure, chasing the game; and then it is almost a bit of quicksand - the more we tried to fight, the more errors we made, the more we got into a situation from which we couldn’t get ourselves out of.”
One man who had no reason to wallow in misery was Nkosi’s counterpart, Jimmy Stonehouse. The Pumas coach was positively beaming and admitted that the gameplan was based on placing pressure on an inexperienced Lions team from the onset.
Said Stonehouse: “Yes, obviously we thought that we could get 30 (points on them) ... that is what we worked on because we know they are a bit young.
“We knew their scrums were going to be good and luckily for us we changed that after 10, 15 minutes … that kept us in the game. We knew because they were a bit young, if we add pressure and keep it up there, we will get to our five points, our bonus point.”
It was an assured win by the Pumas, one that will surely leave them in good stead as they prepare for the Griquas in Kimberley next week Friday.
“It is definitely a big confidence booster for each and every individual,” said Pumas skipper Phumzile Maqondwana.
“If you look at how the bench came on, they made such a huge impact. It is very important for the bigger picture within the squad, because this tournament is really about each and every person on the field and beyond – those guys that are in the 23. Getting a win is a big confidence booster.”
Despite their positively beaming sentiments of both coach and captain, Stonehouse admitted that there were still a handful of concerns the team must tackle before their next match, pointing out in particular their scrums, their high-tackle indiscipline and mistakes at the breakdown.
The problems for Nkosi, however, are tenfold.
“We have a helluva lot of work to do,"said the coach.
“We have to do a real reflection. In terms of game specifics, as good as our set-piece was last week, we had a whole lot of miscommunications this week, so we have to fix that. We have got to fix our urgency – we were lethargic, cumbersome in the manner in which we played.”
Nevertheless, the Lions have a month to regroup and do that deep introspection. Their next opposition are the Sharks at Emirates Airline Park on February 19 and the next four weeks could provide useful for a team that needs to discover its unity if they are to have any impact in the Currie Cup this season.