Lions unchanged for Dragons as they seek to go into URC break on a high
Coach Barend Pieterse hopes for a repeat of recent winning performances but Lions can’t be complacent
The Lions will push an unchanged match 23 into battle when they take on the Dragons in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The team that beat Zebre Parma 61-19 last weekend was given a clean bill of health not just physically but in its standing with the selectors.
Their performance against the Italian outfit added another layer to the groundwork laid on their recent tour of Scotland, Wales, Italy and Northern Ireland.
Perhaps, as expected, they brought a sharper cutting edge to their attack, which had shown signs of improvement on tour.
Last week they ran in nine tries against the hapless Italians, but forwards coach Barend Pieterse is keen to see them extend that progress to his area of expertise.
At the start of the season the Lions set themselves the objective of scoring more maul tries — and things started promisingly enough.
“We started off well but we are a bit behind where we want to be,” former lock Pieterse explained. “Each week that will be a work-on for us.
“Each week you are not going to just score a maul try. You have to work really hard. We want to improve on that.”
After last week’s romp against Zebre there may be the need to guard against complacency on Saturday against a side that they are yet to lose to and is second-last on the points table.
“It is not about motivation but more about keeping energy intact,” Pieterse advised. “The Dragons are not in a great position on the log but they do have quality players and a good system.
“They have a good line-out. It will be tough. It won’t be a 3pm game where we can bargain on the heat. We just have to rock up and do what we did through the week.”
For flanker Emmanuel Tshituka it is imperative the Lions don’t get ahead of themselves before they take a five-week break from URC action. “It means nothing if we can’t back it up this weekend,” Tshituka said, referring to last weekend’s win.
Sanele Nohamba gets another crack in the No 10 jersey, with Jordan Hendrikse starting from the bench. Nohamba has acquitted himself well since vacating the No 9 jersey after three rounds in this season’s competition. The Lions also boast an experienced forward bench with Willem Alberts, Jaco Visagie and Corné Fourie set to bring some second-half bulk and calm.
Lions team to play the Dragons: Quan Horn; Richard Kriel, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw (capt), Edwill van der Merwe; Sanele Nohamba, Mornè van den Berg; Francke Horn, Ruan Venter, Emmanuel Tshituka; Ruan Delport, Ruben Schoeman; Asenathi Ntlabakanye, PJ Botha, JP Smith. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Cornè Fourie, Ruan Smith, Willem Alberts, Hanru Sirgel, JC Pretorius, Jordan Hendrikse, Rabz Maxwane.