JOHANNESBURG – Just before the Lions jetted out of Joburg last night for their three-match Super Rugby tour of Australasia, coach Swys de Bruin said his main focus would be to get his pack firing again.
The Lions left with their tails between their legs after copping a 42-5 beating by the Sharks last Friday, while they earlier also lost badly to the Bulls. Both matches were played at the Lions’ home ground, Ellis Park, and in both outings the home team’s forwards were taught a lesson.
De Bruin said getting the forwards into synch and firing would be his number one priority on tour.
“They must now stand up and show what they’re made of. We all know the saying: Everything starts up front. The backs can be the best in the game but if they’re not given quality ball and they’re not on the front foot, they can’t do a thing.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in the next three weeks. We’ve all had a good chat and all I’m asking for is effort from the guys. I didn’t get that last week.”
The Lions have lost key forwards Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Corne Fourie, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira and Jaco Kriel since last year and in the last few weeks also had to do without the injured Warren Whiteley and Kwagga Smith.
“If you look at the guys who’ve left us, it’s nearly a full pack. We’re all of a sudden a very inexperienced pack and it’s maybe one of the reasons why I’ve opted to take as many experienced guys on tour as I could,” said De Bruin.
“Maybe it’s best we back the older heads in the group, but still keep the youngsters close by.”
Smith is back for the tour after missing the last four weeks, while Whiteley will have to pass a fitness test on Friday before he can travel.
“Warren isn’t 100 percent fit. He’s done a lot of training with us and knows the team detail, but he’ll first have to pass a test on Friday,” said De Bruin. “If he passes he’ll fly out on Saturday and be available for the games against the Chiefs and Crusaders.”
Whiteley hasn’t played any rugby since round two when he picked up a pectoral muscle injury.
The Lions open their tour with a game against former two-time champions the Brumbies on Saturday (11.45am SA time).
“The Brumbies are a very good, very similar in a lot of respects to the Sharks,” said De Bruin. “They’ve got some experienced campaigners there and like to play the pressure game.
“It’s a big one for us but I don’t want to put any more pressure on the players. It’s not a must-win. If we get a positive result that will be great. More than anything I want to see the guys put in some effort.”@jacq_west