The Golden Lions’ three wins from eight matches in this year’s Currie Cup have come against Griquas, twice, and the Pumas. Today they’ll be hoping to finally register a win against one of the so-called big guns when they host the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park (5.15pm).
It promises to be a fascinating encounter. Both teams have struggled in the competition, each recording three wins, while both outfits are under new leadership; the Lions being coached by Swys de Bruin and the Bulls by John Mitchell.
On top of that there are several players involved today who first made their mark for the opposition. For the Lions, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Jacobie Adriaanse and Robbie Coetzee were once paid by the Loftus Versfeld-based union while Bulls men Marnitz Boshoff, Jano Venter and Edgar Marutlulle once featured for the Joburg-based team.
There won’t only be Currie Cup log points on the line today but plenty of bragging rights, too. It’s just the way it is. Lions boss De Bruin is fully aware of the challenge facing his young team, especially as they look to down one of the “big-five”.
“Look, Griquas and the Pumas are now also big teams, especially when you factor in they haven’t lost any players to the Springboks and are fairly settled sides,” said De Bruin in the build-up to today’s match.
“The playing fields are very even in the Currie Cup, but yes, we haven’t beaten a big union yet and that’s all we’ve got left to play against. I think we’ve turned the corner (after a slow start to the competition), but these are still early days. Fortunately we’re playing much better now.”
The Lions struggled to adapt to De Bruin’s coaching style following the departure of Johan Ackermann, but go into today’s match on the back of wins against the Pumas and Griquas. After today’s match, the Lions enjoy a bye and then finish of the regular season with matches against the Sharks, Western Province and the Cheetahs - none of whom they’ve beaten in 2016.
“The bye next week comes at the perfect time,” said De Bruin. “It will be well-deserved, but before then we have a match to play. I’m really looking for us to play for the full 80 minutes now. We’ve lost concentration at times in recent weeks so i want us to finish off our games properly.”
De Bruin said he was excited about several young stars in his team who are pushing for Super Rugby places next year. “We want to do well in the Currie Cup, but my mindset is also on the future ... I’m looking at combinations and leaders and with so many guys out it’s an excellent opportunity for some players to show what they can do. I’ve already identified some new players who’ve stuck their hands up who could play Super Rugby next year.”
In fact there are a number of exciting players - both young and “old” - on both sides to ensure today’s trans-Jukskei derby will be one of the highlights of the competition.