Lions in better shape for Brumbies clashComment on this story
With minimal changes to the starting XV and coming off a bye weekend, the Lions are looking in a better shape than two weeks ago for their Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies at Ellis Park on Friday.
They will need all of this and more against the Australian conference leaders, where former Springbok coach Jake White is at the helm.
The Johannesburg franchise has now lost six successive matches in this year's competition, and look to turn the tide before embarking on their Australasian tour next week.
Lions coach John Mitchell said they were still resolute in their playoffs ambitions and that his charges needed a favourable result to kick-start their resurgence.
“It’s always been a goal to make the playoffs in this competition,” Mitchell said.
“And that is still alive. Clearly, we've got to come up with a positive experience.
“Until we become totally accurate, we are not going to present ourselves with that opportunity.
“It is still a long way to go in this competition, there are still nine games, and it is a lot of rugby.”
The visitors are favourites, but historically, have not had positive experiences at Ellis Park – having not won in the Lions' den in five years.
Their last victory came in 2007, where they won 14-9.
The Lions also had the better of the Brumbies in Canberra with a 29-20 victory last year.
Mitchell, however, has great admiration for the tourists and is aware of the challenge his troops face on Friday night.
“I love the way the Brumbies are playing at the moment, I love their attitude,” he said.
“I think, transitionally, they are very quick between the attack and defence, and they are playing an exciting brand of football.
“We are going to have to go the full 80 minutes.
“The Brumbies remind us a lot about us, last year in the Currie Cup.
“They play with a lot of energy and clearly they have few reputations in their group, so that impresses me even more.”
Mitchell said he expected the Brumbies to organise a lot of their attack around scrumhalf Nick White, with the Lions sure to target this area of their game.
“Clearly, number nine, Nick White, is quite fast and he’ll come with numbers,” Mitchell said.
“The Brumbies have always prided themselves with their intricate and subtle phase plays off nine.
“The first phase has also been a strong point with (former flyhalf and scrumhalf) Stephen Larkham and George Gregan in the coaching group.
“I certainly can still see some of that element in their play.”
The Lions will also hope to see their lineouts functioning properly – an area Mitchell fingered as a major cause of their woes. – Sapa