Lions keen to build on ‘glimpses’ of magic from last derby against Bulls

Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

Published Feb 14, 2024

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The Lions’ narrow loss to the Bulls three weeks ago is “the one that got away” but the Joburgers understand that to nail the rematch on Saturday, they will have to be much better than they were at Loftus Versfeld.

The Bulls got the fright of their lives and if a last-minute Jordan Hendrikse penalty shot had been true, they would have suffered a huge upset loss. It is a case of forewarned is forearmed for Jake White’s team at Ellis Park this weekend.

Two of the stars of the Lions’ performance, burly prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye and rangy No 8 Francke Horn, reckon the Lions are relishing the opportunity to build on the “glimpses” of magic they showed in the last encounter.

“In the changeroom afterward, the mood was ‘let’s play them again this Saturday, let’s get into them again’,” Ntlabakanye said.

The massive prop would have been charging on adrenaline late into that Saturday night after a series of big hits had the Lions faithful on their feet and the Bulls on their backsides.

“The collisions get my juices flowing,” the prop said, smiling.

“Winning a collision gets me hyped up and it lifts my teammates but we need a lot more than big hits to beat the Bulls.

“It is quite simple, we know we have to improve on the last game. It’s a big derby and we feel that if we don’t replicate or do better than what we did at Loftus we’re not going to come out on top,” Ntlabakanye added.

“I think it’s a big responsibility and it starts with the forwards but we accept it. We know we are almost there.

“We have certainly shown glimpses of what we’re capable of. We’re building slowly but surely and there must be more of those glimpses on Saturday.”

Horn, who like Ntlabakanye has been spoken about as a future Springbok, said that a vital ingredient at the Lions is their growing confidence.

“We feel better about our game. A few years back we would not have been confident of going to Loftus but these days we are playing well there,” he said.

“We’re improving, week in and week out, and the losses that we’ve had have been by no more than seven points so it could’ve been a lot different on the log if we had closed games out. We just need to get on the right side of those narrow losses and then things will look a lot better.”

The obvious question is what do the Lions need to do to get the results they want and cease being a hard-luck story?

“We are there or thereabouts,” Horne said.

“Sometimes it is one or two silly penalties at a crucial time or a lapse in concentration; maybe an error in game management. It is not a big thing. I do not doubt that we are close to getting it right.”

The two forwards were asked how they felt about being named in the greater Springbok picture a few months out from an exciting but demanding year for the world champions.

Horn, speaking for both of them, said: “You don’t look for the article but you hear about it.

“It is nice to hear you are on the radar but you focus only on what you can do for the team. If you add value to the team, things will happen for you.

“You have to be the best team player that you can be and the rest will fall into place.”

IOL Sport