JOHANNESBURG - It’s win or bust for the Lions - and they know it. And if they’re to live up to their billing as one of South African rugby’s premier teams by advancing to the semi-finals of the Currie Cup, they’re going to have to deliver their best performance of the competition in Nelspruit on Friday.
But standing in their way are the Pumas, a team who are just as desperate to make the last-four. As things stand going into the final round of fixtures before the play-offs, the Lions have 16 points, while the fifth-placed Pumas have 12 points.
A draw on Friday evening would be good enough for the Lions, but they want far more than that - they want the full house of points and they want a good performance, too. And they’re expecting it.
“I definitely think we’ve got an extra gear,” said veteran prop Jacobie Adriaanse ahead of the clash. “At times during the season we’ve delivered a fairly high level of performance but we haven’t done it consistently, so we’re chasing an 80-minute effort this weekend. If we deliver that we’ll achieve the complete performance we’re after.”
Before the recent two-week break for the home Rugby Championship Tests, the Lions lost heavily to Western Province and the Sharks after earlier beating Griquas, the Cheetahs and the Bulls. Adriaanse said he and his teammates were excited to get back into action.
“We knew going into the competition that all six round-robin games would matter and it’s turned out exactly like that ... it’s come down to our last match, to qualify,” he said. “The guys are excited about this weekend’s match. But we’re not looking at it as a knockout game, but rather a match in which we want to go out and tick all the right boxes.”
The Lions will be boosted this weekend with the return to the team of key Springbok players Elton Jantjies and Lionel Mapoe, while other national stars like Courtnall Skosan and Marvin Orie are also in the mix. Adriaanse said the team always got a bit of a lift when the national players returned from Bok duty.
Scrumhalf Nic Groom will lead the Xerox Golden Lions for the first time since joining the Johannesburg side when they take on the iCollege Pumas in a Currie Cup game in Nelspruit on Friday night. Kick-off is at 19:00.#LetsUnite pic.twitter.com/ONh61RnFmz— Xerox Golden Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) October 9, 2018
“The guys had a great tournament (the Rugby Championship) and their experience is always a boost for us. They also bring a lot of calm to the team which always helps, especially with such a big game up for us,” he said.
Friday's match kicks off at 7pm.