Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions target 80 minute performance in URC derby against Sharks

The Lions last win came at the start of the year against the Sharks in Durban, where they recovered from a poor start to beat them 20-18.

The Lions are aiming to put in a full 80 minute performance when they take on the Sharks in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match-up at Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 3pm).

The Johannesburg side is on a four game losing streak in all competitions, including back to back cross-Jukskei derby losses against the Bulls in the URC, and they are desperate to get back to winning ways ahead of a tough three game European tour.

ALSO READ: URC crunch match – Lions keen to stretch Sharks out wide

The Lions last win in fact came at the start of the year against the Sharks in Durban, where they recovered from a poor start where they trailed 18-3 at halftime to shut them out in the second half for an impressive 20-18 win.

full performance

They then started better in their matches against the Bulls, but couldn’t continue that throughout which led to them going suffering disappointing defeats.

“After that (Sharks) game the focus was on starting better. In the first 20 minutes we have to start better and keep the ball,” explained Lions assistant coach Jaque Fourie.

“When we don’t have the ball we have to stop (their) first phase momentum and get the ball back within four or five phases.

“The (URC) game after that against the Bulls (at Loftus) we showed that we can do that (start well), and then we also started the second (Bulls) game (at Ellis Park) well, but we couldn’t keep up with it until the end.

“So now our challenge is to put in an 80 minute performance, to start well, take a lead in the game and then to see it through until the end. That is our biggest problem that we need to work on and hopefully this weekend we can put it all together.”

The Sharks have named a largely second string side for the match, resting most of their Bok stars including Lukhanyo Am, Ox Nche, Makazole Mapimpi and Jaden Hendrikse, as well as a few other regular starters, which indicates that they are focusing on the future.

They are currently bottom of the URC log having lost nine of their 10 games so far, and are obviously looking to give their extended squad a run ahead of some tough upcoming away matches, including in the Challenge Cup competition which they will be targeting.

Full strength side

The 11th placed Lions have however named a full strength side as they still harbour hopes of a top eight finish in the URC, and have brought Jordan Hendrikse back in at flyhalf to partner with Sanele Nohamba at scrumhalf, while most of the other regulars are starting.

They will thus be under pressure to put in a big performance and walk away from the game with a full house of points to boost their chances of moving up the log.

“We aren’t under a lot of pressure. It is such a privilege for us to be able to play this game and do what we do,” claimed Lions captain Marius Louw.

“We have been working a lot on our execution, as well as all the other facets of our game. We have focusing on getting in the right positions on defence, around the rucks and on attack.

“The problems that we have had (in the past few losses) were silly uncharacteristic errors, which we have worked on really hard. So I am very happy with how training has gone over the past two weeks.”

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