Odendaal hopes Lions can draw from bigger crowd

Friday night matches at Ellis Park are usually poorly attended

24 March 2022 - 15:56
Burger Odendaal, in the centre, at a Lions training session at Johannesburg Stadium.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images Burger Odendaal, in the centre, at a Lions training session at Johannesburg Stadium.

Lions captain Burger Odendaal believes the crowd will have their part to play when the team sets out to maintain their winning momentum in the United Rugby Championship (URC) against the Ospreys at Ellis Park on Friday.

With stadiums now allowed to admit 50% capacity, Odendaal is hoping the crowd will be a valuable ally for the Lions against the Welsh side.

“It is massive for us as players. We are almost used to not having fans at stadiums. It was nice playing overseas and having capacity crowds over there.

“Playing against overseas teams here, it feels like there are only Lions fans in the stadium. We still have to give our best to get fans to come back to the stadium.”

Winning momentum

Though Friday night kickoffs at Ellis Park leave many fans cold, the Lions' wins over Cardiff and Munster provided them with much needed momentum.

However, they have much to refine in their game. Coach Ivan van Rooyen said they had worked hard on their rucking and physicality since last weekend's clash.

“They pride themselves in physicality and momentum,” he said of the Ospreys. “It is similar to Munster where it will be a physical challenge for us. If you don't stop momentum and you're not effective and accurate in your attacking breakdown they can get ascendancy and the ability to punish you.”

Though the win against Munster was morale boosting his players remain "grounded".

“The wins have been far and few recently. Our heads are definitely not in the clouds. Everything starts from the beginning. We are not comfortable.”

Maxwane can seize moment

With Stean Pienaar out through a serious knee injury, Rabz Maxwane comes into the team on the right wing while the Lions will make a call before kickoff about the fitness of tight-head prop Carlu Sadie.

“This is an opportunity for Rabz. We know his finishing prowess is right up there,” said Van Rooyen.

“We will wait for Carlu. He has back spasms. We will wait for warm-ups before making a decision.”

Having to plug holes in the URC team could become a fraught exercise for the Lions. The form of the Lions Currie Cup team, which is their feeder team, has been poor. They have lost all six their matches so far and are bottom of the points table.

Van Rooyen said the form of the Currie Cup team was not ideal. “It is the responsibility of the coaches to deliver the understanding and expectations of the player.

“It is a young team with lots of Varsity Cup players in it. In terms of fight and willingness to put bodies on the line it was a bit of a step up against the Blue Bulls,” he said of the team's most recent setback.

Lions team to play the Ospreys — Quan Horn; Rabz Maxwane; Wandisile Simelane; Burger Odendaal (captain); Edwill van der Merwe; Jordan Hendrikse; Morne van den Berg; Emmanuel Tshituka; Vincent Tshituka; Francke Horn; Reinhard Nothnagel; Ruben Schoeman; Carlu Sadie/Ruan Dreyer; Jaco Visagie; Sti Sithole.

Substitutes: PJ Botha; JP Smith; Ruan Dreyer/Asenathi Ntlabakanye; Ruan Venter; Sibusiso Sangweni; Andre Warner; Manuel Rass; Tiaan Swanepoel/EW Viljoen.