Lions must answer Francke Horn’s call at set-pieces against Racing 92



Published Mar 31, 2023


Cape Town - The undiscovered country that is EPCR Challenge Cup play-off rugby will fully reveal itself this weekend when the Lions host Paris 92 - and the Cheetahs travel to Toulon - but if Francke Horn is to be believed, then it is all rather elementary.

“Honestly, it is a knockout game but we are preparing for it as if it is every game,” was the Lions No 8’s response on Wednesday when asked if they are going to change their preparations and matchday plans.

Both teams go into Saturday’s Round of 16 clash at Emirates Airline Park (kick-off 6.30pm) with confidence after recent victories, so it will be doing the basics right that could get either of them over the line. Solid set-pieces, good decision-making, limited errors with ball in hand, discipline and taking the opportunities when presented could be more important than playing with attacking flair and running every play.

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By the barest of margins, when comparing the two teams on their Challenge Cup form, the Lions have scored more tries, more points, passed more, beat more defenders, conceded less penalties and missed less tackles. On the flip side, and by single digits, Racing have made more carries and meters, affected more clean breaks and offloads, but have also conceded slightly more turnover ball.

It all points to a tight encounter, one where the Lions will endeavour to kick for territory, while the Sky Blue and Whites will do so for possession.

The Lions could, however, possibly have the upperhand at scrum-time. Statistically, the Parisians only have a 73% scrum success during this tournament, while the Joburgers enjoy a 93% success rate.

“We believe the scrum can be a weapon,” Horn said of that particular battle, “that our set-pieces can be a weapon.

“That is where we can launch our attacks from and create or release pressure ... We are really going to back our set-piece – that has been the talk during this week as well – to create opportunities and take them on there.

“Knockout rugby is definitely set-piece dominated,” he added.

“It will get you in the right areas on the field. From there, it is about taking your opportunities as we have done in the last few weeks.”

ALSO READ: ‘I’m glad I didn’t mess it up,’ says Francke Horn after barnstorming run for possible URC try of the season

After three successful results in their recent matches, the most recent an inspired come-from-behind 32-28 victory over Benetton in the United Rugby Championship (URC), Ivan van Rooyen is expected to stick to the same matchday 23 for this clash, especially with a possible quarter-final on the line against Glasgow Warriors or Dragons .

As such, Horn will in all likelihood combine once again with Emmanuel Tshituka and Ruan Venter. They bossed the loose-forward play against the Italian franchise this past weekend, putting in powerful runs, dominating the contact-point, creating try-assists and crossing the whitewash.

Head coach Ivan van Rooyen will hope they can replicate that performance again this weekend against a loose-trio that could foreseeably consist of France internationals Fabien Sanconnie (five Test caps), Wenceslas Lauret (27 caps), and Ibrahim Diallo (one cap). Laurent Travens can also select Baptiste Chouzenoux, Anthime Hemery or Maxime Baudone, who are all match-fit, in his starting XV.

“The loose-forwards are a critical part of the team,” Horn explained.

“If we play well, we can help the backs and the forwards in that linking role. I think because all three of us are quite young and we started our rugby together, there is a lot of adaptability and learning from each other.

“All three of us are different players, so we fill each other’s weaknesses.”

Emirates Lions possible starting XV: 15 Quan Horn, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruan Venter, 6 Emmanuel Tshituka, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Asenathi Ntlayabakanye, 2 PJ Botha, 1 JP Smith