Lions hanker for highs against Leinster

Defence coach Jaque Fourie hopes they can pull out all the stops

17 April 2024 - 15:46
By Liam Del Carme
Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie believes the team can again hit the highs that took them to victory against Connacht.
Image: Gallo Images Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie believes the team can again hit the highs that took them to victory against Connacht.

The foreboding presence in the opposing coaching box of former Springbok coach and defence guru Jacques Nienaber should have the Lions on high alert at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Their clash with top team Leinster in the United Rugby Championship (URC) is one they hope will mark a return to form but Nienaber's nous and know-how, especially regarding the local franchises, could be a significant roadblock.

The Bulls found Nienaber's fingerprints all over the battle plan Leinster set in motion in a 47-14 win in Dublin last month.

Though the Lions occupy 11th spot on the points table they rank fourth in the number of tries scored, but they will be up against the joint second-tightest defence in the competition.

“As a defence coach I know Leinster are probably the best attacking team in the URC and we want to measure ourselves against them,” said Lions defence coach Jaque Fourie. “We also know they focus more on defence these days,” he said about the addition of Nienaber.

After their stunning home win against Stade Rochelais in the Champions Cup last week, Leinster will rotate their squad against the Lions, not that Fourie draws any comfort.

“Leinster also have incredible depth and it doesn’t matter which Leinster team you play against, it will be a good team.

“We have to have our structures in place and put them under pressure, because if you give them time and space they will punish you,” warned Fourie.

Though four of the last five remaining pool matches are at home, the Lions will face a tough examination from teams higher than them. Leinster, Munster, Cardiff and Glasgow Warriors are all destined for Doornfontein.

“It is now time for us to start pushing to finish among the top eight teams,” said Fourie.

“If you want to be one of the top eight teams in this league you have to be able to beat Leinster, Munster and Glasgow.”

That the Lions find themselves in a scramble for a place in the top eight is in large part due to their inconsistent performances this season. International Space Station heights are often followed by Western Deep Level lows.

“We can get back to that level of play,” said Fourie about the highs they hit away against Connacht last month. “I don’t think we had hiccups overseas, I just think we played badly. That first game against Connacht we were down to 14-men, the guys were up for the challenge and it was then disappointing against Ospreys and Benetton.

“So we need to press the reset button after those defeats. We are back home now again and there are no more second chances for us. We have to make the top eight and to do that you need to win your games at home.”