Cape Town — Ruan Dreyer has been with the Lions when they were playing in Super Rugby finals, relegated from the same competition and now battling to find a way forward in the United Rugby Championship.
The 32-year-old prop also earned four Springbok Test caps in 2016, and spent a few seasons at Gloucester in England as well.
So, Dreyer has experienced the highs and lows of a professional rugby player, and has a fair idea of how the Johannesburg side can get out of their rut, starting with tomorrow’s URC clash against the Glasgow Warriors at Ellis Park (4.15pm kick-off).
The Lions are in a difficult place at the moment. They are 14th on the URC log, have won just once in seven games, and had a nightmare tour to France in January, where they went down 17-7 to Stade Francais in the Challenge Cup.
They were forced to play in their training jerseys after their match kit went missing, they had to eat hotdogs and had to do their own laundry.
The players also gave their coaching staff and management mainly low ratings in a MyPlayers survey, and now Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli has promised to address the issues.
For Dreyer, though, the team need to do their talking on the pitch too.
“This is actually a good challenge for us. We actually had a good meeting and get-together yesterday as players. We set ourselves the goal to just make this about the players and team going forward,” the front-rower said during a press conference on Friday.
“This is a massive challenge — Glasgow are fifth on the log — so for us now, it’s just to focus game by game and get the best out of every game, and go forward.
“At the end of the day, for each one of us, our future is in our own hands, and we can’t be bothered about anything else. We must just produce a good performance between the four white lines.
“That’s what we said yesterday: at the end of the day, it’s up to us. We can’t worry or complain about everything else if we don’t bring the results on the weekend.
“For now, we will leave all the other stuff and go through the right channels, and must just keep fighting on the field.
“We’ve got nothing else to lose. The external stuff going on is out of our hands, and there are proper channels to go through to handle that stuff.
“At the end of the day, there is nothing we as players can do, but to play for each other and on the field, make the best out of it. If we are not going to stick together, we are going to struggle in the future.
“What people don’t realise is that if you take the first 40 minutes of last week and the amount of opportunities we created — and the style of play — the guys are really playing for each other and are throwing everything out there.
“It’s just those small margins for us to bring everything together. That’s what we as players are striving for: to keep that up and try and turn that into an 80-minute performance… just finish off a few more last passes, keep the ball one more phase, and just get those points on the board.”
In 17 games across the URC and Challenge Cup this season, the Lions actually have a better win percentage away from home. Out of eight games at Ellis Park, they have three wins (37.5%) — and a draw — while they have been victorious in four of nine matches (44.4%) outside Johannesburg.
So, that is another aspect that coach Ivan van Rooyen’s team need to address against Glasgow.
“Sometimes going away from home and spending a bit more time together as a team is very good for the team culture. Sometimes at home, there are different struggles we have to go through – driving in and out to the stadium,” Dreyer said.
“But that is not an excuse… One thing we are trying to do is to enjoy each other’s company every day here at Ellis Park, where we spend most of our day together.
“We must just find that sweet spot of using Ellis Park and Johannesburg as a big advantage. We’ve got the altitude advantage, and must get that upper hand against the other South African teams.”
Teams For Ellis Park
Lions: 15 Quan Horn 14 Rabz Maxwane 13 Manuel Rass 12 Marius Louw (captain) 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Gianni Lombard 9 Sanele Nohamba 8 Francke Horn 7 Emmanuel Tshituka 6 Jaco Kriel 5 Ruben Schoeman 4 Ruan Venter 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye 2 PJ Botha 1 JP Smith.
Bench: 16 Morné Brandon 17 Rhynardt Rijnsburger 18 Ruan Dreyer 19 Ruan Delport 20 Ruhan Straeuli 21 Morné van den Berg 22 Rynhardt Jonker 23 Andries Coetzee.
Glasgow: 15 Josh McKay 14 Cole Forbes 13 Stafford McDowall (captain) 12 Sam Johnson 11 Eli Caven 10 Tom Jordan 9 Jamie Dobie 8 Sione Vailanu 7 Rory Darge 6 Ally Miller 5 Scott Cummings 4 Lewis Bean 3 Lucio Sordoni 2 Johnny Matthews 1 Nathan McBeth.
Bench: 16 Angus Fraser 17 Allan Dell 18 Simon Berghan 19 JP du Preez 20 Euan Ferrie 21 Thomas Gordon 22 Sean Kennedy 23 Duncan Weir.