Lions keen to shake six-day turnaround
They will also need to soothe the mental scars from defeat last Sunday
Shaking off the physical effects of a six-day turnaround and soothing the mental scars of their defeat against the Ospreys last Sunday will be paramount for the Lions as they go in search of victory over the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
The Jukskei Derby is also an opportunity to elevate themselves into the play-offs in the United Rugby Championship (URC), but first they need to put last Sunday's disappointment behind them.
“It’s been a six-day turnaround for us, so it’s been quite a short week preparation-wise,” said head coach Ivan van Rooyen. “It was important for us to seek alignment and clarity as quick as possible. A short week also forces us to make quick decisions and effective training.
“Our synergy has been good this week. We had a good review of what went well and what didn’t work last week,” he said.
Though the Lions head to Pretoria on the back of the recent defeat, their previous visit to Loftus in the URC ended in triumph.
Van Rooyen, though, acknowledged the match will require a huge physical effort if they are to earn back-to-back wins in the capital.
“We know if you’re not physical against the Bulls, they’ll get momentum. With momentum comes quick ball and offloads. So we know we are going to have to front up physically and be aware of their kicking game and set piece play.
“The focus for us defensively was to work hard, set quickly and make decisions from there.”
Desperate to repeat the heroics of last year, Van Rooyen has opted to retain Sanele Nohamba in the position in which he has made most impact this season.
A 24-point haul helped propel Nohamba to the man of the match award last year, but he started at scrumhalf then.
On Saturday he will be at first receiver next to Morne van den Berg at scrumhalf.
The pair appear to be the Lions' most effective halfback combination this season.
In the pack Hanru Sirgel has earned a start in the back row with Emmanuel Tshituka and Francke Horn.
Izan Esterhuizen could make his debut in the URC if he is summoned from the bench.
Lions team to play the Bulls — Quan Horn; Richard Kriel, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw (captain), Edwill van der Merwe; Sanele Nohamba, Morne van den Berg; Francke Horn, Emmanuel Tshituka, Hanru Sirgel; Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman; Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Jaco Visagie, JP Smith. Substitutes: Morne Brandon, Morgan Naude, Ruan Dreyer, Darrien Landsberg, Izan Esterhuizen, JC Pretorius, Jordan Hendrikse, Enrich Cronje.
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