Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions bracing for physical battle against ‘dangerous’ Bulls

The Lions will not be overawed by the occasion after they claimed an upset win over the Bulls at Loftus last season.

Lions captain Marius Louw is well aware of the challenge that awaits his team when they take on the in-form Bulls in their United Rugby Championship (URC) cross-Jukskei derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulls will be favourites, having enjoyed a good season so far, as they also head into the game off the back of two strong Champions Cup wins. In contrast, the Lions head in off two Challenge Cup losses.

However the Johannesburg side will not be overawed by the occasion after they changed their fortunes against South African teams with a stunning upset win over the Bulls at Loftus last season.

Thrilling win

On that occasion the Lions had lost 10 straight games against SA teams in the URC, and thanks to a 24-point haul from Sanele Nohamba they managed to clinch a 29-25 victory.

Since then the Lions have been edged 35-33 by the Stormers at Ellis Park, and then stole a late 20-18 win over the Sharks in Durban, showing they are a much more confident team when facing their local rivals.

“Over the past few years, the Lions have struggled to win against South African teams, but I think we got that monkey off our back last year,” Louw said.

“So now it’s just about sticking to our processes and getting a good performance in before going on a little break.

“They’ve played a lot of good rugby over the last few weeks, especially at home. We know how dangerous they are. They are very physical, and they spread the ball wide with their backs, so it’s definitely going to be a tough one.”

The Lions will also be eager to bounce back well after they let a 28-17 lead slip in the final 10 minutes to go down 38-28 against Ospreys in their Challenge Cup clash at Ellis Park last week.

Disappointing loss

It was a disappointing result as the previous weekend they sent a ‘B’ team to France for their clash against Montpellier, which they lost 13-3, so their ‘A’ side was fresh and ready for the Welsh visitors but still managed to capitulate in the closing moments.

“I think we were a little bit disappointed with our performance over the weekend. We had some good entries that we didn’t execute in scoring tries, with some disallowed. Our discipline also wasn’t up to scratch, so that’s definitely something we’ll look into,” said Louw.

“It’s very uncharacteristic of us, especially in the last 10 minutes, to let go like that. So yes, it was definitely a discussion point going into this weekend.

“We mentioned earlier about our performance. It just comes down to working a little bit harder because we do identify the space and where we need to go. But I think we were also a little bit flat-footed. It’s something we’re going to look into this weekend and make sure our intent is where it needs to be.”

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