JOHANNESBURG – Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies said yesterday that his team will do “whatever it takes” this year to go one better than in 2018 when they finished runners-up in Super Rugby for the third time in a row.
The Lions lost the final to the Crusaders in Christchurch last year, and also came second in 2017, at home against the Crusaders, and in 2016, in Wellington against the Hurricanes.
While the Lions have the same coaching team as last year and the bulk of the players who did duty in the last three campaigns, they will be minus a few key men, most notably tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer, backup prop Jacques van Rooyen and lock Franco Mostert.
Also, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Jaco Kriel have also left the franchise, prompting critics to suggest the Lions won’t be the force this year as they were in 2018, 2017 and 2016.
Jantjies said ahead of the start of the 2019 edition of Super Rugby this weekend that his team were up to the challenges awaiting them.
“We have to do whatever it takes for us to win this title,” said the experienced No 10.
“And that means giving it your all on the training ground, in the gym, in the psychologist’s rooms. Each and every player must accept the responsibility placed in them and work towards making the Lions the best.
“This is no place for individualism. We’re a team here and do everything for the team,” added Jantjies who said no one in the Lions squad would be side-tracked by World Cup ambitions this year.
“Our focus has only been on Super Rugby. We’re approaching each game like it’s a Test match; it’s such a tough competition. The only time anything about the World Cup has been mentioned was when (Springbok coach) Rassie Erasmus visited us a while ago and spoke about the year ahead. For the rest, it’s only Super Rugby talk in the Lions team.”
Jantjies added that the number of youngsters and newcomers coming into the Lions squad this year helped spark a new energy in the team. “There will never be a drop off for motivation here, that’s for sure,” he said. “But, the young guys coming in bring new energy and that’s always exciting.
“We’re in a good space going into the competition; our base, with an experienced core, is solid. A lot of the guys know what it takes to get to the top and that’s going to be crucial again.”
Meanwhile, head coach Swys de Bruin will today name his line-up for the Lions’ first game of the competition, against the Jaguares, in Buenos Aires on Saturday.@jacq_west