Lions seeking fast start in Currie Cup
JOHANNESURG - The Lions might be swapping their predominantly crimson-coloured kit for the more traditional white jersey with iconic red hoop of the Golden Lions this week, but the priority at the team will remain the same – finish in the top four.
On Saturday, the Lions will leave a disruptive and disjointed Super Rugby Unlocked campaign behind when they face Griquas in Kimberley in their first Carling Currie Cup encounter (kick-off 4.30pm).
The Lions finished fifth during the recently concluded SRU portion of the season, and will carry 12 points into the Currie Cup.
That handful of points, however, could have been more had Covid-19 not played its part by cancelling two
of the Lions’ matches, against the Cheetahs and Pumas.
Although coach Ivan van Rooyen’s team only managed
one win – a blowout against their opponents this weekend, there were signs, glimpses, flashes of a larger plan coming together.
The Joburg team lost three matches within seven points against the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls, and against the coastal sides could and probably should have won.
What was especially striking during all the Lions’ games was their ability to adapt to the conditions and also the opposition.
At times, when they enjoyed supremacy, they showed flair and skill, moving the ball fluently.
In other moments, especially against the Bulls, they exhibited a steely resolve and willingness to put
their bodies on the line, adding an impressive grunt to their arsenal.
That fluidity in game plan will come in handy in the weeks to come as the Lions, led by captain Elton
Jantjies, battle for a semi-final berth next year.
And get into the knockout phase of the season, they must. The four teams that will participate in an expanded Pro Rugby tournament in Europe remains unclear, and there is talk that the semi-finalists of this season will be the franchises that make the trip up north, despite previous communiques that insisted it would be the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
Luckily, the team have the tools, the dark crafts at scrum-time and at the breakdown, the pace and precision outside, and a fine mix of youth and experience to do so.
At the moment it seems more than likely that all the players who were available during SRU will be available to them for the Currie Cup. What is now required from those
players in the coming weeks is to find consistency of form, a cutting edge and the ability to close out close games in the positive.
By Saturday, it will have been three weeks since the Lions last played due to the Pumas game being cancelled, and their mandatory bye a week later, so they will also need to shake off a bit of ring rust this week.
They will announce their team on Thursday.