JOHANNESBURG – While Lions fans may feel it is payback time for the Stormers, the players themselves don’t have revenge on their minds.
For them, this weekend’s Round 16 Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park is the first of three games to ensure they get into the knockout rounds.
The last time the Lions and Stormers met, at Newlands in Round 2, replacement scrumhalf Hershel Jantjies scored the winning try for the Cape team after the hooter had sounded following a period of sustained pressure and several back-to-back penalty advantages.
It was a blow to the Lions, who just minutes earlier had gone 17-12 up with an Elton Jantjies penalty.
It is now time for the return fixture in Joburg and both teams are desperate for a victory to keep alive their chances of featuring in the quarter-finals in a few weeks’ time.
But talk of revenge hasn’t entered the minds of the Lions players.
“The Stormers have been good so far, and obviously they’re up on confidence following a win and the draw with the Crusaders,” said Lions wing Courtnall Skosan.
“They’ll be a confident group coming up to Joburg and of course it’s going to be a big one; it always is when it is north against south.
“But there are no thoughts of revenge. It’s a funny game... the bounce of the ball, sometimes the result goes your way, other times not, you just have to stay focused on what you need to do.
“There’s no personal battle or grudge; that’s just a waste of energy. You need to make sure you use all your energy in the right places.”
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Seasoned fullback Andries Coetzee said Saturday’s game was simply the first of three big matches the Lions need to win to give themselves a shot at the play-offs. The Lions are fourth in the SA Conference, having won just seven times in 13 matches.
“We didn’t have the best of starts this year, but it’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you end that is important,” said the Springbok fullback from 2016.
“The next three matches (against the Stormers, Hurricanes and Bulls) are a great challenge for us. We’ll take things one game at a time and then see where we are.
“We can look back at that Newlands game (in Round 2) and say, ‘we should have, could have’... but it was out of our hands and we lost. It is what it is; we can only focus on Saturday. The Stormers will be a confident team and they’ll come out guns blazing.”
The Joburg side haven’t beaten a South African team this year, losing twice to the Sharks and once each to the Stormers and Bulls, but Coetzee and Skosan said the Lions would stick to the game-plan and style that saw them to the Super Rugby final for the last three years.
“I don’t think we can compare previous seasons to this year because we’ve got a World Cup this year and it’s different. We want to go out and end on a high though, starting this weekend,” said Skosan.
“But one thing you can be sure of, the Lions will never change their style. We love to play ball and will continue doing so.”
Coetzee added: “We’ve tried to look into why we haven’t beaten an SA team this year. Nothing’s changed, we’ve played our brand of running rugby since 2012 and we’ll stick to it. With regards to this Saturday, expect anything from us.”
Lions coach Swys de Bruin will name his team for the match tomorrow.@jacq_west