Sonny-Bill will not be a focal point for the Lions when they host the Blues

08 March 2018 - 17:37 By Khanyiso Tshwaku
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams reacts after being shown the red card.
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams reacts after being shown the red card.
Image: REUTERS/David Gray

The Blues may be the weakest of the New Zealand franchises but in the past two seasons they've proven to be better than some of their South African counterparts.

The Lions know this and having seen off two fierce South African contenders‚ a foretaste of how Syws de Bruin's side has evolved will be witnessed at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Lions backs coach Neil du Bruin knows that disabling the dangerous Blues backs will take them one step closer to continuing on their reasonably decent opening season return.

More importantly‚ De Bruin knows they need to be tested against an opposition that provides something different from an attacking perspective.

“They played really well in their last two matches and if you look at the scores against the very good opposition they played against‚ they were very tight‚" said De Bruin.

"It's going to be a good indicator of where we are but it's not about them‚ it's about us.

"It's always a good challenge to play against the New Zealand teams but we have to be the best that we can be.

“You always look for an 80-minute performance but that's not always the case.

"In some games you'll start better and in other games you'll finish better.

"While we are looking for the complete performance‚ we're not too worried about the last 10 minutes because the coaches have put in the hard work and the players have realised they have to be clinical.”

The Lions are unchanged from the side that in no uncertain terms simply destroyed the Bulls at Loftus on the weekend.

While the final score (49-35) looked close at the end‚ the Bulls were nowhere close to achieving any sort of parity against a Lions side that picked lock Franco Mostert at blindside flank.

De Bruin acknowledged that Mostert displayed an impressive engine but for all their misfortune from a results perspective‚ the Blues are a well conditioned side who can thrive on the Highveld when given the chance.

With a bench with the likes of Hacjivah Dayimani and Albertus “Kwagga” Smith‚ the Lions are prepared to go the distance with Tana Umaga's side.

There's also the serious matter of having to keep Sonny-Bill Williams on a leash.

The Blues have yet to win a game this season but ran the Highlanders (41-34) and the Chiefs (27-21) very close.

“We've had a couple of chuckles about what's been said about Sonny-Bill.

"He is a world-class player but he's not a focal point for us.

"I know I keep repeating myself but it's about us‚ not them.

"They've got stars all over the park and they've got quality players.

"We've got to be the better collective unit. It's that simple‚” De Bruin said.

Lions:

15 Andries Coetzee‚ 14 Sylvian Mahuza‚ 13 Lionel Mapoe‚ 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg‚ 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ 10 Elton Jantjies‚ 9 Ross Cronjé‚ 8 Warren Whiteley (c)‚ 7 Franco Mostert‚ 6 Cyle Brink‚ 5 Marvin Orie‚ 4 Andries Ferreira‚ 3 Ruan Dreyer‚ 2 Malcolm Marx‚ 1 Jacques van Rooyen.

Subs:

16 Robbie Coetzee‚ 17 Dylan Smith‚ 18 Jacobie Adriaanse‚ 19 Lourens Erasmus‚ 20 Kwagga Smith‚ 21 Ashlon Davids‚ 22 Harold Vorster‚ 23 Hacjivah Dayimani.


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