Lions ready to take on 'desperate' Bulls
THEIR clash against the Bulls is not so much an opportunity to go out of Super rugby with a bang, but to provide a platform to build momentum for the Currie Cup.
Following the Lions' improved performances in their last three matches against the Sharks, the Stormers and the Rebels, their clean-shaven captain Josh Strauss believes victory over the Bulls at Loftus tomorrow will present his team with the opportunity to start the Currie Cup with an equally pristine slate.
"That momentum as well as the guys returning from injury will hopefully give us a bit of an edge in the Currie Cup. Hopefully we can also start with a bang."
The Lions' long-term future is the talk of the town and while the players and the coaching staff are in no position to venture a prediction on that front, persistent rumours suggest a hybrid of the Lions and the Cheetahs will re-emerge next year.
"We don't have much to lose. We play for ourselves, each other and for pride. That can be a dangerous mix," said Strauss about his team's most immediate hurdle tomorrow.
Strauss, who is barely recognisable without his beard, explained the Lions' recent upward curve in performance.
"We had fewer injuries, we got a bit of continuity and the ball started bouncing right for us."
The qualities that helped spur the Sharks to victory now reside with the Bulls tomorrow, believes stand-in Lions coach Johan Ackermann.
"The Sharks had their backs to the wall [before they beat the Bulls last week at King's Park].
"When those top sides are desperate they are dangerous and that is the kind of side we are facing this weekend.
"The physicality of the Sharks suggest they were a desperate side. That was perhaps the difference," Ackermann said.
"We know the Bulls are going to come out guns blazing because of the position they find themselves in. We have to match that."
Strauss agreed. "We know they are going to be desperate and they are going to want to be physical. We will have to man up."
The Lions will be without go-to-man in the lineouts Franco van der Merwe.
"He's one of our most experienced forwards. If you look at our lineouts since [hooker] Callie [Visagie] became familiar with our system we had 80-90% success on our lineouts. It's a big loss but we have confidence in Ruan Botha, who comes off a good SA under-20 tournament. We have to trust him," said Ackermann.
The coach said it was imperative that the Lions repeat the sprightly start they made against the Sharks and the Rebels against the Bulls.
"We have to be in the game at half time. If we're not it is going to be a difficult day," Ackermann predicted