Lions expect the Bulls to put up a bigger fight than their recent results suggest
The Bulls may have dined from the canvass of late‚ but the high flying Lions are reading more into the Pretoria side's pedigree than their recent lean pickings.
The two teams clash at Ellis Park on Saturday and they will go into the Super Rugby match having experienced contrasting fortunes in this year.
The Bulls have suffered seven defeats this season‚ the last two‚ painful for different reasons‚ at home against the Crusaders and the Highlanders.
The Lions have just returned from an unbeaten three-match tour of Australia and although their confidence is in the stratosphere‚ captain Warren Whiteley has urged his teammates to keep their feet rooted.
“You can't underestimate anyone in this competition‚” Whiteley warned.
“I don't need to mention what we've seen over the last couple of rounds. Anything can happen.
“As a player you need to keep your feet grounded.
"They are going to fight. They are going to be determined and we know they have quality players. It will be one helluva game‚” said Whiteley.
Coach Johan Ackermann nodded in agreement‚ before noting that the young players the Bulls have started introducing makes them a difficult team to put in a box.
“It is a perfect opportunity for young players‚" said Ackermann.
"You know they will bring energy. They want to show the coach that they can play at this level.
"That makes them dangerous because they have nothing to lose.
"They are not afraid and they are going to express themselves.
"That makes them unpredictable. We know they have enough talent.”
The coach certainly assembled his team in a way which suggests he is not taking the opposition lightly.
The Lions have restored their first-choice front row of Jacques van Rooyen‚ Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer to the starting line-up.
Despite the long term injuries to highly rated props Julian Redelinghuys and Dylan Smith the above mentioned combination has scrummed with mongrel and menace this season.
They have helped provide the Lions with a platform from which they vanquished the opposition in all but one of their matches this season.
They are second on the points table and with their international travels behind them‚ they can quite reasonably set their sights on a place in the top two.
The three wins in Australia further emboldened their claim.
“It has kept us in the hunt for that play-off spot‚” Ackermann noted modestly.
“We can control our destiny and we don't have to hope this one beats that one and so forth.
"We haven't achieved anything yet. We still have to knuckle down.”
The Lions team to play the Bulls:
Andries Coetzee; Sylvian Mahuza‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Harold Vorster‚ Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies‚ Ross Cronjé; Warren Whiteley (captain)‚ Ruan Ackermann‚ Kwagga Smith; Franco Mostert‚ Andries Ferreira; Ruan Dreyer‚ Malcolm Marx‚ Jacques van Rooyen.
Substitutes: Akker van der Merwe‚ Corné Fourie‚ Johannes Jonker‚ Lourens Erasmus‚ Cyle Brink; Faf de Klerk‚ Jacques Nel‚ Anthony Volmink. - TMG Digital/TMG Sport