4 things the Golden Lions must do to beat the Blue Bulls
By Morgan Bolton 33m ago
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JOHANNESBURG – The Golden Lions conditioning, with a dollop of luck, has remained intact another week, as the team announced that there were no injury concerns.
The Johannesburg-outfit face the Blue Bulls tomorrow in their last regular season encounter. Here we look at what they will need to do if they have any inkling of securing a home semi-final.
1 Get back those returns …
Make no mistake, Marvin Orie has been one of the players of the season, not only for the Lions, but in the Currie Cup. The Lions lock has worked tirelessly on defence and in the melee of the contact point, while his marshalling of the line-outs has been superb.
Against the Pumas, however, the normally reliable service from that particular set-piece broke down, the Lions losing four of their own throw-ins.
They still snaffled a couple themselves, but they also fluffed good attacking positions due to the pressure the Pumas where putting them under. The Lions have a fine line-out, so you'd expect it to easily return to those high standards against the Bulls, and it must if the Joburgers even want a sniff at victory …
2. Because, the scrum …
The last encounter between the two sides, in October, saw the Bulls bully the Lions at scrum time, especially during the first half. The Lions scrum has arguably come leaps and bounds since then, but tomorrow's battle up-front might be nothing less than seismic.
Again, against the Pumas, the Lions failed to impose themselves when they packed down, even coming under pressure, and being penalised at times – a massive surprise, to be sure. That cannot happen against the Bulls, who use the scrum to intimidate and stifle their opposition at every opportunity.
3 Trust in your patience …
The Lions were guilty on Saturday of speculating on 50/50 plays that resulted in a knock-on here, a forward pass there. When it did break open for them, they were sublime – with specific reference to
Tiaan Swanepoel's second try – but they generally felt rushed in their attack, no doubt due to the Pumas' brilliantly disruptive game plan and execution thereof.
It is easy, with hindsight, to decree that they should have probably first ground the Pumas into dust before playing the expansive stuff, but then in recent memory the Lions have never died wondering.
They will have to be much tighter against the Bulls, and protect their breakdowns with more intent, but also mindful that they have a backline that can explode at any moment. Striking a healthy balance between the two styles still alludes the Joburgers – there have been glimpses – and if they can nail it down against the Bulls, oh boy, that would be magnificent.
4 These are the numbers …
If the Lions have any hope of hosting a semi-final next weekend, then make no shakes about it, Elton Jantjies and Co will have to beat the Bulls at Loftus. Many have argued that home-ground advantage counts for little this season, but the Pretoria-based side has not lost at Loftus since the start of domestic rugby in October. They have also not played since their loss to the Sharks in Durban on December 12.
Perhaps that will be to the Lions' advantage.
The Lions must also hope that the Sharks beat the Western Province at Newlands on Saturday, without a bonus point, or see that match end in a draw and then rely on their superior points difference to book a home semi.