Lions scrumhalf throws down the gauntlet ahead of Bulls clash

Ross Cronje of the Lions during the Emirates Lions Mixed Zone at Johannesburg Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ross Cronje of the Lions during the Emirates Lions Mixed Zone at Johannesburg Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Scrumhalf Ross Cronjé believes the best is yet to come for the Lions in the build-up to and during the knock-out phases of Super Rugby in the coming weeks.

Cronjé delivered the ominous message for the Bulls ahead of their must win clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Lions have‚ by some distance‚ been off the form that carried them to line honours in the league stages last year‚ but Cronjé believes it is a matter of time before they hit their straps.

“I think we are going to be peaking at the right time. I think we still haven’t clicked 100 percent this year.

"I’m hoping it is going to happen now in the lead up to the play-offs‚” said the scrumhalf who has just signed a two-year extension to remain with the Lions.

He’s not the only Lion in the remain camp who holds the view things can only get better.

“I don’t believe we have put in an 80-minute performance yet‚” said fit-again wing Courtnall Skosan.

“We are hitting our stride now. Hopefully we can get an 80-minute performance so that we can get into that next gear and go forward‚” said Skosan.

The Lions have to beat the Bulls this weekend if they want to secure top spot in the South African conference‚ but their result would be rendered inconsequential should the Jaguares lose to the Sharks in Durban.

The Lions’ destiny is in their own hands thanks to the Bulls’ win over the Jaguares at Loftus last weekend.

“It is must have been the first time the whole of Joburg was rooting for the Bulls‚” noted Cronjé.

“Well done to them. They are playing great rugby at the moment. It will be a difficult game this weekend. They’ve got a couple of good combinations that have started to click‚” warned the scrumhalf.

Cronjé holds the view the Lions’ record over the last few seasons has made them a team against which others want to measure themselves.

“The whole year there has been a lot of pressure on us. Every single team has wanted to beat us. We haven’t had an easy game this season. We’ve had to get ourselves up every single game.

“The Bulls don’t have anything to play for apart from pride but I believe they will want to get one over us. I don’t think it has happened for a while.”

In fact‚ it hasn’t happened since 2015 - and the Lions have now won five of their last six clashes against their neighbours.

Apart from setting the Lions on a smoother path into the play-offs this weekend‚ Cronjé will be forgiven if he pushed a personal agenda. He was a regular starter in the Bok jersey last year under Allister Coetzee but did not crack the nod under Rassie Erasmus this season.

Saturday’s match will present him the opportunity to stack up his skills against that of Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier‚ two of the three scrumhalves on Bok duty against Wales and England in last month’s internationals.

“You’re always up for the challenge. Both have had a great season for the Bulls. I’m just excited to get on the park this weekend and play some good rugby.”