No room for mistakes for Lions if they want to take Bulls by their horns at Loftus

Willem Alberts of Golden Lions jumping for the ball in the line out during the Carling Currie Cup match between Tafel Lager Griquas and Xerox Golden Lions XV at Tafel Lager Park in in Kimberley, South Africa.
Willem Alberts of Golden Lions jumping for the ball in the line out during the Carling Currie Cup match between Tafel Lager Griquas and Xerox Golden Lions XV at Tafel Lager Park in in Kimberley, South Africa.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

The Lions cannot afford to drop the ball if they want to ambush the Bulls in their cold and unwelcoming Loftus Versfeld den in next Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal‚ coach Ivan van Rooyen says.

Missed chances proved costly for the Lions when they went down 22-15 in their final league outing‚ which left them in fourth spot on the log.]

The Lions have an early opportunity to atone for that defeat‚ but they are up against a formidable Bulls side who have turned Loftus into a fortress.

There was a hiccup for the Bulls in their last league outing when they were walloped 44-14 by the Pumas in Nelspruit. The result is unlikely to have dented their confidence because they fielded several young fringe players in a dead rubber encounter.

“I think we created a lot of opportunities in our last game against the Bulls and part of the frustration is that we didn’t capitalise on them‚” Van Rooyen said.

“I think set-piece-wise there are enough positives to build on. Our defence was good but the attack was not that good. There is a lot of stuff to work on and a lot of stuff to improve on.

“Part of the teachings and the learnings we have to do every week is to sit with the decision-makers and reassess how they handled pressure and why they took certain decisions. We will look in-depth into the second half and take the learnings lessons from that.

“We took long to get momentum back on our side and to be honest we have to go back and look at the set-pieces and to see where we can paint the right pictures and improve in terms of consistency from our side.”

Frustratingly‚ the Lions failed to score a try against the Bulls‚ and this is an area of their attacking game that needs to be improved. All their points came from the reliable boot of Tiaan Swanepoel‚ who nailed five penalties.

“It has been a while since we didn’t scored a try but we created enough opportunities to score‚” Van Rooyen said.

“If you want to be different or go far in this competition‚ you must be willing to take a chance‚ and we will challenge that mindset ahead of the Bulls game. We were a little bit indecisive‚ not knowing when to run or kick and stuff like that.”

Bulls coach Jake White wants his players to maintain their impressive record on home soil in the semis.

“It’s difficult for teams to come and play at Loftus now‚ and that’s part of what we talk about‚” he said.

The Jukskei derby‚ which will mark the second successive matchup between the sides in Pretoria‚ will kick off at 2pm. Focus will then switch to Newlands in Cape Town for the semifinal between Western Province and the Sharks at 4.30pm.

The two winning teams will battle it out in the final on January 30.