The Lions have one significant factor on their side ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein: the fact they haven’t peaked this season. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
The Lions have one significant factor on their side ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein: the fact they haven’t peaked this season. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
Ivan van Rooyen’s Lions on the road have been good, too... recording away wins against Griquas and Western Province. Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz
Ivan van Rooyen’s Lions on the road have been good, too... recording away wins against Griquas and Western Province. Photo: Jeremy Ward / www.photosport.nz

JOHANNESBURG – The Cheetahs will start as clear favourites, but the Lions have one significant factor on their side ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein: the fact they haven’t peaked this season.

That’s according to former Lions coach Eugene Eloff, who was in charge of the Joburg side when these teams last met in a Currie Cup final, in Bloemfontein in 2007. On that occasion the Cheetahs scored two late tries to shock the Lions 20-18.

Eloff said he had watched the Cheetahs and Lions closely during the course of this year’s competition.

“Both teams have scored some nice tries and played some good rugby. The Cheetahs, for various reasons like the fact their coach Franco Smith is leaving to Italy soon, will be the favourites. They’re also at home and they’ve got a number of players in their ranks with Pro 14 experience behind them.

“But, a big factor for me is the fact the Lions haven’t really played well this season, yet they’re in the final. They’ve had to fight their way to where they are, and that shows there is a lot of character in the players. Nothing has come easy for them this season.

“And, they go into the final having not hit the sweet spot once. Maybe it’ll happen in the final, in the game that matters,” said Eloff.

And he’d be right. At no stage this year have the Golden Lions clicked and played dominating, free-flowing rugby. They’ve had to grind out wins, some by the narrowest of margins.

“The Lions have had to work really hard and when you’re asked to do that week-in and week-out it shows there’s a belief in the team, among the players,” said Eloff.

A big plus for the Cheetahs is the fact they’ve out-lasted many of their opponents this year. “They seem to take things easy, happy to play catch-up, but then when they put the pedal down they go all-out. If you’re going to beat the Cheetahs you’re going to have to keep going, for the full 80,” said Eloff.

The Cheetahs go into the game on the back of three good wins on home soil this season - recorded against the Griquas (68-14), Western Province (38-33) and the Sharks (51-30). Their only defeat at home was against the Lions, who won 24-22.

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Ivan van Rooyen’s Lions on the road have been good, too. Besides the win registered in Bloemfontein a month ago, they also recorded away wins against Griquas (27-26) and Western Province (30-28).

The Cheetahs are chasing a sixth Currie Cup title this weekend, while the Lions will hope to bag their 12th.

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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