Lions coach Swys de Bruin insists a win over the Highlanders this weekend will make their four-match sojourn in the Antipodes well worth it.
The Lions won their opening game against the Waratahs but have since lost to the Reds and the Hurricanes.
Saturday’s clash in Dunedin, however‚ has the potential to change the mood in the camp while restoring wider confidence in their campaign.
"A win against the Highlanders will make it a very successful tour‚" said De Bruin.
"The guys showed plenty of guts against the Hurricanes. It [a win] will mean a lot.
"We haven’t won at the new stadium and it will be a massive challenge," he said
The sole win the Lions achieved in Dunedin was in 2011 at the Highlanders’ former home ground, Carisbrook.
De Bruin will want a better performance from his charges‚ but they will have to achieve it without their most impactful player, Malcolm Marx.
The Bok hooker returned home after suffering a hamstring injury and his replacement in last week’s defeat against the Hurricanes‚ Robbie Coetzee, was blown off course.
"I don’t want to look for excuses but that wind was again incredible‚" De Bruin said about Coetzee’s failure to regularly find his jumpers.
Wellington has a devilish wind that sweeps in off the Cook Strait and when it reaches the stadium that earned the moniker "Cake Tin"‚ the prospect of throwing in can cause you to want to throw up.
"You could see it with the kicks as well as the handling‚" De Bruin said.
"The lineouts weren’t easy for Robbie and he hasn’t had a lot of game time. He has worked very hard on his lineout feeds this week, so I’m encouraged."
With Marx having flown home, the Lions opted not to fly out a replacement. It means Coetzee is the only established hooker in the group.
"Marnus Schoeman can also come on as hooker‚" De Bruin said of the flank. "Jacques van Rooyen can also deputise well at hooker if he is required to. We did consider flying in Corné [Fourie] but they just had their first-born and I don’t think it would have been the right thing to bring him across."
But deploying the dynamic Schoeman at hooker will undermine his full impact. The blond openside flank has been one of the revelations of the Lions’ season and has delivered some eye-catching performances on this tour.
"He is a team man. He makes a lot of tackles. He’s good off the bench and he is also good from the start," De Bruin said of Schoeman.
"If you play him with Kwagga [Smith] you lose a bit in the line-out so sometimes it is easier to bring him or Kwagga off the bench to lift the intensity. He has slotted in well with us," De Bruin said.
Marx will not require surgery on his hamstring injury‚ but he has been ruled out for at least six weeks, meaning he will miss SA’s Tests against Wales and England in June.