Lions don't want to be left wondering about ‘what ifs’
Given what transpired in their two most recent clashes with the Blue Bulls‚ Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has called on his team to be brave in Saturday's Currie Cup semifinal at Loftus.
The Lions lost two close encounters against the men from Pretoria and in both cases they would have greeted the final whistle with a chorus of 'what ifs'.
In their most recent clash‚ they went down 22-15 having been perennially stuck in third gear.
This time against the standout team in the competition‚ coach Van Rooyen does not want his men to leave Loftus wondering.
“We came close twice. We created enough opportunities but we just didn't take them‚” he said about their most recent match-ups with their trans-Jukskei rivals.
“You need to be brave. You've got to be willing to give it a full crack‚” he said before clarifying what that means to his team.
“We are keen to go there and put them under pressure with ball in hand. If not with ball in hand‚ then with our kicking game.
“We worked hard on our decision making in the last two weeks and how we can apply pressure for 80 minutes.
“We allowed them to dictate the tempo of the game completely‚” he said about their last game‚ which was also their last league match.
“Having a crack isn't necessarily throwing the ball around. It is seeing if you can dictate the tempo of the game.
“If we have forward dominance‚ then how do we use it? How do we transition and how do we apply our kicking game? Having a crack is applying pressure in different ways.”
Either way‚ they will have to build in some pragmatism in their battle plans. Pretoria will be a sweltering 34 degrees Celsius by the time kick-off arrives. Both teams will have to find ways of conserving energy‚ while both are likely to empty their bench.
“It will be nice and warm and we have to see if we can play with the ball or not‚” said Van Rooyen.
The coach indicated he will make liberal use of his bench. The sense that the Lions should use all that is in its arsenal is a common thread in the build up to the semifinal.
Tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis concurred that the Lions should not take the field inhibited. He too believes the Lions are better than what they put on display last time out but that only their best will do if they are going to emerge victorious.
“The Bulls are very difficult to break down‚” said Du Plessis. “They have great defence off first phase‚ they have a great flyhalf in Morne [Steyn]‚ who makes good decisions‚ kicks well‚ passes well and has been in this situation 100s of times. We will need to play very well to beat them.”
The Bulls are hoping to reach the final for the first time since 2016 when the lost the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. They have not won the Currie Cup since 2009.
The Lions‚ who last won the trophy in 2015‚ lost last year's final away from home against the Cheetahs.