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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Challenge Cup: High-flying Lions set sights on Montpellier

'To be honest the URC stays our immediate focus and the competition we want to excel in.'

While the Lions will now turn their attention to the Challenge Cup, their coach Ivan van Rooyen insists the United Rugby Championship remains their main focus.

The Lions have had an excellent start to the Challenge Cup; they won their opening two games against Perpignan away and at home against English side Newcastle Falcons to sit comfortably in second place in Pool 2, putting them in a good position to make it to the knockout stages.

However, doing well in the Challenge Cup for the Lions is a bonus as their main target for the season is the URC where they are chasing their first playoff spot in the competition.

“To be honest the URC stays our immediate focus and the competition we want to excel in,” said Van Rooyen after his side beat the Sharks in a URC game in Durban on Saturday.

“In saying that, we got off to a decent start in the Challenge Cup, but the next two rounds will probably determine where we are on that log.”

Van Rooyen is not afforded the luxury of his counterparts, who may have more financial resources and playing personnel, and will again have to box cleverly over the next month when it comes to picking his matchday squads. 

Fringe players to France

This week the Lions travel to France to take on Montpellier for their third game in the Challenge Cup on Saturday and Van Rooyen has hinted at taking fringe players to France with his first choice men staying at home.

“We have four games in January so that will probably impact our decision of which team to take to Montpellier,” Van Rooyen said.

“As coaches, we plan how we want to play but it’s important for us to have an idea of what kind of team we might take and the team we want to prepare for Ospreys back home (in the EPCR),” he said.

Meanwhile, the Cheetahs and Sharks, who are first and second in Pool 1 of the Challenge Cup, also resume their campaigns this weekend.

The Sharks will welcome French side Oyonnax to Durban on Saturday, while the Cheetahs will host Pau at the Rugby Netherlands Stadium in Amsterdam on Sunday.

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