Nothing routine about the Lions' clash with the Sunwolves
Ordinarily the Lions facing the Sunwolves would fall squarely in the realm of 'routine'‚ but Saturday’s Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park will be anything but.
The Lions’ shock defeat against the Blues‚ in which they capitulated quite spectacularly in the second half‚ has bestowed an unexpected edge and urgency on this weekend’s clash.
Lions’ forwards coach Philip Lemmer is in very little doubt that the match is an opportunity to‚ if not to set the record straight‚ then at the very least to get back on track.
“We stumbled last week and we are fully aware of the importance of winning all your home games.
"We have to set things right this week.
"Last weekend we didn’t put their forwards under enough pressure‚” lamented Lemmer.
The Lions were tactically naïve as they played into the Blues’ hands in the second half.
Their cause was of course not helped by the fact that captain Warren Whiteley was forced to leave the field with a knee injury in the first half.
Still‚ they should have had enough Super Rugby and Test campaigners‚ to ride the storm and grind out a win.
The fact that they relinquished a 28-10 lead poses serious questions of the rest of their leadership.
With Whiteley likely to be out for a month‚ lock Franco Mostert looks set to lead the side with flyhalf Elton Jantjies as his deputy.
“Warren is an exceptional player and leader and there is no doubt that we will miss him.
"He brings calmness and composure and that will be missed. Having said that‚ we have a leadership group in the side that can take responsibility.
“Elton makes the calls at the back‚ while a guy like Sous (Mostert) makes the line-out calls. They will continue to play leadership roles.
“Last year Jaco Kriel stepped in as captain but now he will effectively be out for a year‚” said Lemmer.
Mostert has cut a towering figure in the Lions’ pack this season and his leadership style will no doubt involve him setting the example at the front.
The challenge facing the Lions this week is not dissimilar to that they faced over the last two weeks.
Like the Sunwolves‚ the Bulls and the Blues also play a high tempo game and the Lions had mixed success in nullifying that threat.
“We know the Sunwolves try and speed things up‚” noted Lemmer.
“They are the quickest in the competition in getting the ball in and out of the scrum and they will generally try and speed things up.
"They played really well against the Brumbies in Tokyo but they weren’t as sharp against the Rebels and the Sharks.
"We expect them to be better this week.
"They have a couple of South Africans like Willie (Britz) and Lappies (Labuschagne) in their forwards so they will present us a challenge.”
The Lions will be fueled by passion this week but they will also need to be cool and calculated if they want to re-establish their credentials.