PRETORIA – Amongst the many challenges that the Waratahs will be faced with in their Super Rugby semi-final clash against the Lions, will be the war of attrition up-front that will go a long way in handing the Australians an unlikely victory.
As much as the Lions are known for running rugby, they have employed the maul to demolish opposing teams with great frequency and with much success.
Waratahs assistant coach Chris Malone believes that nullifying the Lions' forward pack and winning the physical battle will give them the upper hand in the Saturday’s game at Ellis Park.
“As you’ve seen all year, historically the Lions, particularly at home, they are a big pack that like to get on a roll and they are going to come no doubt through their forwards,” Malone said.
“We know that’s been a great strength of theirs and they have scored a lot of tries from that line-out, so it is an area of the game that we got to minimize for them.”
“If you look at our game from the weekend there was probably a half of football where we were confrontational and a half where we weren’t.
“That is the nature of the game, particularly here, playing a South African side, it’s always going to be physical.”
And the Waratahs will know all too well how dangerous and fatal it is allowing the Lions pack to run riot having been on the end of a 29-0 beating in Sydney earlier in the season.
Malone said they have taken heed of the lessons of their previous encounter and they will look to starve the Lions of possession and gain control of the game.
Said Malone: “We learnt a lot in that game and the big thing we learnt is that we have to be able to control possession particularly against these guys who want to bury themselves on your end of the field and put their forward pack to work.
“We need to control possession on the weekend and that is one of the things we learnt from the last time we played against them.”
Ultimately, though, the Waratahs will have to focus on what it is that they will put on the table to see them pull off an improbable win and despite the energy-sapping difficulties of playing at altitude, Malone believes they have no option but to back the running game that has got them to the semi-finals.
“One of the great things about the Waratahs this year, is that we are always in the game and we won’t give up trying to get back into the game or putting the game away.
“We know that it is going to be a big physical game and we are here playing at altitude and our preparation has to be right to ensure that we get to the game and we are full of running,” added Malone.
“I think the reason to these two sides are in the semi-final is because they play the way they play the game. It would be crazy for us to try alter the way we play the game. The game that we play has got us to where we are now and we have to be true to ourselves and true to how we want to play the game.”
The game kicks off at 3pm on Saturday.