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Lions look to stalwarts for spring in the step against Stormers

22 September 2020 - 11:28 By Liam Del Carme
The Emirates Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen know his team needs a lot of improvements.
The Emirates Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen know his team needs a lot of improvements.
Image: Marty MELVILLE / AFP

Oddly‚ the Lions will go back in time as they try and shake the Covid-19 dust and cobwebs in their Super Fan festival clash against the Stormers at Loftus on Saturday.

They will hope former stalwarts Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer can turn back the clock on their return and help them show significantly more claw than what was evident in the Super Rugby competition that was suspended in March due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

Flank and former captain Kriel and tighthead prop Dreyer both followed erstwhile coach Johan Ackermann to Gloucester but the Springbok duo are back in a Lions squad in much need of bolstering.

The Lions were bottom of the South African conference with their solitary win in the competition coming over the Reds.

Only the Sunwolves recorded fewer log points.

Coach Ivan van Rooyen knows the team have to atone for the performances they delivered in the six matches before the tournament was suspended.

However‚ it isn’t just the inconsistent set-pieces‚ and lack of grunt and composure that he had to address over the last six months.

“Our biggest focus is to get into the new normal game week‚” said Van Rooyen. “We have to check protocols and make sure we all understand what we can do and can’t do.”

Once they get onto the field‚ however‚ there is much to redress‚ apart from testing themselves physically.

“It is important for us to show progress in all departments from where we left off and what we are working on.

“In terms of the team it is an opportunity to get back onto the pitch and show how we have grown and create an opportunity for the players to express themselves‚” which has been a hallmark of the team over the last decade or so.

The Stormers too will be bolstered by Springboks‚ but in their case those tinged with gold from last year’s Rugby World Cup success in Japan.

Siya Kolisi‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Herschel Jantjies‚ Bongi Mbonambi and Warrick Gelant are all expected to line up.

“The Stormers are a very good team‚” noted Van Rooyen. “They have a great set piece‚ line-out and maul.

“They have an excellent kicking game. They’ve always had a great counterattack. With Warrick Gelant there the same will happen. It is a great test for us.”

Van Rooyen’s team ran the Stormers close the last time they met but that defeat will still sting.

“In the Super Rugby game we had they beat us in the 83rd or 84th minute‚” said Van Rooyen of the moment Ruan Nel snatched a last-gasp win for the visitors to Ellis Park.

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