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The Lions, and the other SA franchises in the United Rugby Championship (URC)‚ will have to play more matches away‚ with their home games in rounds six and seven destined to be played in Italy.
Despite SA being taken off the UK’s Covid-19 red list for travellers, the domestic franchises will only welcome European opposition to this part of the world in 2022.
“We don’t know too much about that. I think it is only on November 28‚” Julian Redelinghuys said about playing more games abroad.
“Whatever challenge they throw our way we will deal with it. I’m looking forward to seeing our fans back at the stadium‚” said the former Boks and Lions tighthead prop.
Despite struggling in the domestic season and with a growing injury list that includes Jordan Hendrikse‚ Eddie Fouche and Pieter Janse van Vuuren‚ the Lions have given a decent account of themselves in the URC‚ winning their first match and proving highly competitive in two ensuing defeats.
If it was not for a questionable try awarded to the Warriors in Glasgow in Scotland last weekend, the Lions might have come away with a win.
They now face a tough assignment in their last match when they clash with table-topping Ulster in Belfast on Friday.
Redelinghuys is excited about facing an Ulster team more committed to engagement in the scrum. The Lions have scrummed well on tour but haven’t always found reward commensurate with their dominance in the set piece.
But the European teams are crafty when there is a need to roll with the punches, Redelinghuys said.
“The European teams‚ when they are under pressure‚ get the ball out quickly. The eighth man gets the ball out from under the prop’s feet even with them going backwards. They are doing that well. We still look to create pressure on their ball to cause a bit of instability and disrupt their platform. We can control it better when we put the ball in and we can keep it there longer‚” said the coach.
He believes Ulster won’t scrum away from that battle.
“I looked at a few of Ulster’s games. Against Zebre I think they scrummed for seven minutes. They kept going for the scrum. It’s about how they back themselves in a particular facet. It’s nice to scrum against different teams and test yourself against international players. That is invaluable for these guys.
“We are looking for good challenges. We want to improve.”
Redelinghuys believes the Lions have made some improvements in the scrum despite having to come to grips with playing on artificial surfaces.
But loosehead prop Sti Sithole played down the difference. “It is not a big difference. The only one is probably the load on your calf muscles. You have to use slightly shorter studs because the studs don’t dig in as deep on an artificial pitch. I prefer natural grass‚” he said.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.