Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
3 minute read
4 Jun 2022
1:03 pm

Lions desperate to beat Sharks to end ‘long season’ on a high

Ross Roche

It was a solid first showing in the URC for the Lions and one that they can take a lot of positives from going into next season.

Ivan van Rooyen wants to finish the Currie Cup on a high. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Lions are gunning for a big finish to their season when they take on the Sharks in their final Currie Cup match of their campaign at Kings Park Stadium in Durban on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 5pm).

It has been a season of ups and downs for the Johannesburg based union, with them ending their maiden United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign a few weeks ago with an 11th placed finish which saw them miss out on the knockouts.

However it was a solid first showing in the URC and one that they can take a lot of positives from going into next season.

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“If you look where we started with the URC and now coming to the end of the Currie Cup it has been a long season,” admitted Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen.

“But it has been good, especially the last month where we have worked with everyone in the system. It has been nice to have hands on players that we haven’t coached much over the year.”

In the Currie Cup the Lions have struggled massively, especially after they decided to split their squads, leading to a very inexperienced squad of mostly U20 players doing business during the first half of the competition.

That led to some big defeats as the youngsters struggled to find their feet in an unforgiving competition without experienced players to back them up.

After the halfway point in the Currie Cup season, the Lions started to use a few URC players as they neared the end of that competition.

This saw an upturn in form as the youngsters were backed up by more senior members of the Lions team.

This led to close defeats against the Griquas and Cheetahs, both games that they could have won, while a full strength Lions side full of URC players just lost against the Bulls in a game they really should have won.

The team then finally managed to break their duck in their penultimate match against Western Province last weekend where a good mix of youngsters and URC stars claimed a thumping 33-10 win at Ellis Park.

It was the perfect way to end of their season at home and they will now be aiming to claim a good away win over the Sharks in their final match.

The Sharks will be dangerous as they are trying to keep their top four hopes alive in the Currie Cup, but they have named a team without any URC players as they are all involved in their quarterfinal against the Bulls at Loftus.

“It is important for us to finish the season well, it is important for the group to keep on growing and keep the momentum. So obviously that’s our focus this weekend against the Sharks,” said Van Rooyen.

“They will be determined as it’s a vital game for them, so I think it’s going to be a great game with both teams desperate to perform well.”