Lions have a tough task to stop rampaging Bulls in Rainbow Cup SA
Share this article:
JOHANNESBURG - The Lions have the unenviable task of facing the Bulls this weekend in Round 4 of the Rainbow Cup South Africa.
The Joburg-based team is winless after three rounds, the men from Pretoria, meanwhile, have swept aside all challengers. Here we look at three factors that will define the match at Emirates Airline Park today. (kick-off 3.30pm)
Who will prop up their team?
An almighty match-up is on the cards between the beefcakes of the Lions and Bulls pack. On the one side, would-be Springboks Sti Sithole and Carlu Sadie, and in the other corner Springboks Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka.
On paper then, the Bulls have the finer, quality props, but as both Sithole and Sadie have shown in recent weeks, that doesn't intimidate them, it only makes them more hungry for success. The Lions duo out-scrummed the Stormers pairing and Bok incumbents Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe last weekend, and they will be confident that they can repeat the feat against the Bulls.
Nyakane and Gqoboka, however, will be no pushovers. Many believe that they will be on the front-lines when the British and Irish Lions Test series begins, so they have much to play for themselves.
Defence is everything
The Lions defence has been sketchy at times - they have attempted 330 tackles in their three matches thus far, and have missed 75 of them. Often those missed tackles have come during the initial stages of the encounter, and have led to tries being scored with the Lions chasing the game from the start.
That was especially true in the first leg match against the Bulls and then a week later against the Sharks. In the loss to the Stormers, the Lions’ defence let them down throughout the game, and at moments when it seemed they had taken the match by the scruff of the neck and were on their way to victory. It allowed the Stormers to stay in the game for the full 80 minutes, which resulted in them stealing the win after full time.
It goes without saying that against a buoyant Bulls side, the Lions will need to be much, much tighter in their defensive setup.
A Steyn-less performance
One less concern for the Lions this weekend, will be the absence of Morne Steyn. The veteran flyhalf has been superb for the Pretoria-based side, his most recent performance against the Sharks a masterclass.
The calls to include him in the Bok setup are growing ever louder, and reverberating through the ears and minds of SA and British and Ireland Lions supporters alike. He won't take any part in the clash, however, as Jake White opts for Chris Smith, and replacement Clinton Swart. Even so, that doesn't mean that the Lions will have the upperhand at flyhalf.
Jordan Hendrikse will make his second start for the Joburgers in the No 10 jersey. At 19 year old he is inexperienced, and is only starting his senior professional career. He had a brilliant outing against the Stormers last week, and was named Man of the Match for his performance, so he does have quality and an undisputed raw talent. The big question here is, can he repeat that performance when the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Marco van Staden and Elrigh Louw are hunting him down, and an impressive
Bulls backline that includes Embrose Papier, Marco Jansen van Vuren and Cornal Hendricks are rushing at him in defence?