WATCH: ’Grey, wet and cold’ weather won’t have impact on Lions’ energy against Scarlets
Share this article:
JOHANNESBURG - The conditions the Emirates Lions face on Friday night at Parc y Scarlets might have just as much say in the outcome of their United Rugby Championship match, as the opposition that they face.
Inclement weather – “grey, wet and cold,” as described by head coach Ivan van Rooyen – is expected in LLanelli on the South-west coast of Wales and will be closer in conditions to a rain-swept Newlands, than the magnificently dry and humid surroundings the Lions found themselves when they beat Zebre last week.
Expansive rugby might, therefore, not be on the cards and the tight exchanges could be where the match is won or lost. Playing in the right areas of the field, and hunting for territory, might just be the name of the game.
Moreover, as captain Burger Odendaal stated on Thursday at the team announcement, in a game that will be more 50/50 due to the weather, it will be the forwards that will need to step up the most. Scarlets, however, will be no pushovers in that department as they sport Test experience in the first eight.
Prop Rob Evans and hooker Ryan Elias of Wales, Scotsman Blade Thompson at lock, and eightman Sioni Kalamafoni of Tonga - all in the starting XV for the match - have international experience.
The Lions will, therefore, be heavily reliant on an unchanged pack and forward replacements - as well as the same backline players as in the Zebre encounter - to get them front-foot ball, establish dominance and eke out any advantage possible.
They have done it before against Springbok-laden sides, so there is the very real possibility that they can do it again.
“It lays the foundation for (Scarlets) to attack so well – their line-outs and scrums,” explained Van Rooyen.
“It is,” the Lions coach continued, “an area where we have consistently grown over the last couple of months. We also want to get a lot of energy from our set-piece … Even though it is internationals, as South Africans we pride ourselves in the set-piece and we have the same expectations Friday night to really be competitive.”
With such conditions on the cards, the backline might also not enjoy the width they used to carve the Italian-based side up in the first half last week. It is a reality that Odendaal is fully aware of.
Said Odendaal: “It’s going to be a bit more on our decision makers to get us in the right areas on the field.
“The game management is going to be very important, so you don’t want to be stuck in your own half trying to play and then get a couple of unforced errors which puts them on the front-foot. It is going to challenge our kicking game a bit and hopefully our decision makers get us on the front-foot.”
Kick-off for the second-round encounter is at 8.35pm, the same time as the match between Connacht and the Bulls.
Emirates Lions starting XV (15-1): EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal (capt), Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Andre Warner; Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel; Pieter Jansen Van Vuren, Ruben Schoeman; Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Ruan Dreyer.
Replacements: PJ Botha, Sti Sithole, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Reinhard Nothnagel, Sibusiso Sangweni, Morne van den Berg, Eddie Fouche, Divan Rossouw.