JOHANNESBURG - After giving up a handy lead, and then going on to lose, against the Blues last weekend, one thing the Lions won’t be this week is complacent.
And the team that could be in for a bit of a backlash is the Sunwolves - probably the weakest side in the competition.
The men from Japan have lost all three matches so far in this year’s Super Rugby competition and will start at Ellis Park on Saturday evening knowing the last time they visited Joburg, last year, the Lions hammered them 94-7. The home team scored 14 tries in a stunning display of attacking rugby.
The Lions though, after being stunned by the Blues, are not even thinking along those lines.
“There’s no time for complacency,” insisted hooker Malcolm Marx. “Anybody can beat anybody in this competition. The Sunwolves play quick, fast, running rugby and we can’t afford to be complacent against them ... you just don’t know what’s going to happen on the day, if it’s going to go well or not.”
It certainly didn’t go well for the Lions last week but it is something Marx said the players had learned from and would take forward in the rest of the competition.
“We probably got a bit too comfortable at stages. We didn’t execute as well as we should have, but we’ve analysed where we went wrong and we simply have to keep going,” he said.
Marx added that the implosion suffered against the Blues was now something of the past and the players had put it behind them soon after last Saturday’s match.
“We talked about it straight after the game and we agreed to get over it,” he said. “It was one game in the season and this is a long competition. The vibe has been good at training, which is important because you don’t want a sour vibe going into the next weekend.
“If we were going to lose it’s probably better it happened now rather than later. We’ve got time to get back on the band-wagon and graft hard again.”
Marx, who was named South African Rugby Player of the Year for 2017 just before the competition started, has had a fairly quiet time of it for the Lions so far this year. He has yet to hit top form, either as a ball-carrier, cleaner or stealer, and also missed a number of line-out throws in the first two rounds of action.
“I’m not very happy (with my form) at the moment,” he admitted this week. “Things picked up a bit in game three and four, but I’ve got a lot to work on. I’m working hard every day and hopefully it picks up from here, it’s a long season.”
Marx would have been one of the candidates coach Swys de Bruin considered to lead the team in the absence of Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel, but he wasn’t prepared to let anything out the bag ahead of Thursday's team announcement where a new leader will be named.
Prop Jacques van Rooyen, flank Kwagga Smith, scrumhalf Ross Cronje and flyhalf Elton Jantjies are the other players who have led the team before and could be entrusted with the job. Whiteley is expected back in about a month’s time.
The Sunwolves, coming off a 50-point beating by the Sharks in Durban, will include former local stars Willie Britz, Lappies Labuschagne, Hencus van Wyk, Wimpie van der Walt and Grant Hattingh in their ranks this weekend.