Lions look to stalwarts for spring in the step against Stormers
The Gauteng team will be hoping Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer can turn back the clock on their return from Gloucester
Oddly‚ the Lions will go back in time as they try to shake off the Covid-19 dust and cobwebs in their Super Fan festival clash against the Stormers at Loftus in Pretoria on Saturday.
They will hope former stalwarts Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer can turn back the clock on their return and help them show significantly more claw than was evident in the Super Rugby competition suspended in March.
Flank and former captain Kriel and tighthead prop Dreyer followed erstwhile coach Johan Ackermann to Gloucester, but the Springbok duo are back in a Lions squad in much need of bolstering. They were bottom of the SA conference with their solitary win in the competition coming over the Reds. Only the Sunwolves recorded fewer log points.
Coach Ivan van Rooyen knows the team have to atone for the performances they delivered in the six matches before the tournament was suspended. However‚ it isn’t just the inconsistent set pieces and lack of grunt and composure that he had to tackle over the past six months.
“Our biggest focus is to get into the new normal game week‚” Van Rooyen said. “We have to check protocols and make sure we all understand what we can do and can’t do.”
Once they get onto the field‚ however‚ there is much to redress‚ apart from testing themselves physically. “It is important for us to show progress in all departments from where we left off and what we are working on.
“In terms of the team, it is an opportunity to get back onto the pitch and show how we have grown and create an opportunity for the players to express themselves.”
Such self-expression has been a hallmark of the team over the last decade or so.
The Stormers too will be bolstered by Springboks‚ but in their case it is players tinged with gold from the 2019 Rugby World Cup success in Japan. Siya Kolisi‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Herschel Jantjies‚ Bongi Mbonambi and Warrick Gelant are all expected to line up.
“The Stormers are a very good team‚” Van Rooyen noted. “They have a great set piece‚ lineout and maul.
“They have an excellent kicking game. They’ve always had a great counterattack. With Warrick Gelant there, the same will happen. It is a great test for us.”
Van Rooyen’s team ran the Stormers close the last time they met, but that defeat still stings. “In the Super Rugby game they beat us in the 83rd or 84th minute‚” Van Rooyen said of the moment Ruan Nel snatched a last-gasp win for the visitors to Ellis Park.
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