Countering the Sharks’ pressure game is central to the Lions’ battle plan as they go in search of a second successive Rainbow Cup SA win at Ellis Park on Saturday.

They broke their duck by beating the Bulls last time out. But the challenge the Sharks‚ who are still in contention for top honours‚ are likely to bring will differ considerably from that the Pretoria side presented.

“The way they play and their philosophy is a pressure game‚” said Lions’ coach Ivan van Rooyen about this weekend’s visitors.

“If you give them time and space they can squeeze you in your half‚ and if you then make errors they have exciting players who can capitalise. It is clear they want to play a territory game‚ force you into errors and also counterattack. You have to counter their pressure. You have to dictate terms to them.”

The Lions have opted for the same match-day 23 bar Manuel Ras who loses out to Dan Kriel on the bench.

The Sharks by contrast have made a raft of changes with  players such as Makazole Mapimpi‚ Manie Libbok‚ Werner Kok and Anthony Volmink getting a start.

The Lions are not viewing the changes as an affront. “In the bigger picture we are all preparing players for the Springboks‚” said Van Rooyen. “No team will select a team with the view to not being competitive. We have to focus on our team and not be distracted by outside influences.”

He stressed that the Lions are focused on themselves and moving forward.

Captain Burger Odendaal also senses the forward motion, but cautioned “the last win doesn’t mean anything”.

The Lions still have matches in this competition against the Sharks and away to the Stormers. Then they meet the British & Irish Lions and for that they need a clean bill of health.

Van Rooyen said the Lions have started a vaccination process. All the teams due to play the British & Irish Lions are to be vaccinated.

Apart from getting a shot in the arm Odendaal said the players are playing ball. “Amid all the talk of a third wave we decided to be stricter so that it doesn’t shoot us in the foot. We are fortunate to be playing rugby‚” said Odendaal.

Lions squad: EW Viljoen; Rabz Maxwane‚ Wandisile Simelane‚ Burger Odendaal (Capt)‚ Courtnall Skosan; Jordan Hendrikse‚ André Warner; Len Massyn‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ MJ Pelser; Reinhard Nothnagel‚ Ruben Schoeman; Carlu Sadie‚ Jaco Visagie‚ Sti Sithole. Replacements: PJ Botha‚ Ruan Dreyer‚ Asenathi Ntlabakanye‚ Willem Alberts‚ Emmanuel Tshituka; Morné van den Berg‚ Fred Zeilinga‚ Dan Kriel


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