Lions have to kick on after mauling Leinster

Marius Louw of the Lions enjoyed a telling display against Leinster on Saturday. | Nokwanda Zondi BackpagePix

Marius Louw of the Lions enjoyed a telling display against Leinster on Saturday. | Nokwanda Zondi BackpagePix

Published Apr 22, 2024


Morgan Bolton

The Lions gave themselves a fighting chance of reaching the quarter-finals by beating Leinster on Saturday, but the battle to consistently put in victorious performances in the United Rugby Championship (URC) has only begun.

One would think that a bonus-point victory over the Irish giants at Ellis Park would ease the pressure as the Joburgers search for Top 8 qualification, but a string of results over the weekend conspired against them. They did breach the play-off spots after the 44-12 win, moving up to 39 points, but then dropped back down to 11th by the end of the night.

Marius Louw of the Lions enjoyed a telling display against Leinster on Saturday. | Nokwanda Zondi BackpagePix

There are now three teams – Ulster, Connacht and Edinburgh – above them on the same number of points, with the Ospreys and Stormers on 40 points and Benetton two points above that in fifth.

While beating Leinster was an important first step towards the quarter-finals, Saturday’s match against Munster – who shocked the Bulls at Loftus Versveld – could become the one that ultimately defines the Lions’ campaign,.

A similar effort that saw the Lions score six tries and repel Leinster with 181 tackles – 85% of them successful – while playing with limited possession (38%) and territory (26%), will be required. Unfortunately, building on winning performances has been one of the team’s failings this season.

— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) April 20, 2024

Their record this year in the URC is the perfect example, as they have won four of their seven matches, creating positive momentum only for it to be interrupted by some abject outings.

“We have our backs against the wall,” head coach Ivan van Rooyen admitted after the match. “These are must-win games for us. The trick is to reproduce it next weekend against Munster.”

The Lions’ triumph was built on the first 15 minutes where they took advantage of a sloppy Leinster to build a 22-0 lead. The Dublin-based side attempted to turn the match around by besieging the Lions’ half for the next 50 minutes, but some resolute defence and scrappy play from Leinster ensured they were rarely threatened.

Munster, on the evidence of their 27-22 win over the Bulls, will arguably be far more clinical than their northern neighbours in attack and defence.

“I don’t think attitude will play a role with Munster,” Van Rooyen said, as he looked towards Saturday’s challenge.

“They will have been here for 10 or 12 days by Saturday. I think we will have a good, honest review.

“There is still a fair bit that we can fix to make sure that we keep building on what is working for us and making sure we keep the identity of our game model currently.

“We feel when we get that right, we are really dangerous. We must make sure that we do our basics really well.”

— BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) April 20, 2024

It was a sentiment shared by captain Marius Louw, who enjoyed a telling display against Leinster.

“We need to make sure we stick to our process,” the 28-year-old said. “We have to win (against Munster) to stay in it. It is so tight on the log that anything can help.

“Like coach Cash mentioned, we must stick to what we do and manage the game as best as possible. Giving Leinster 40-odd is a confidence booster and it will definitely lift Munster for next week, as well. That should lift us even more,” he concluded.