Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions must fix inconsistencies ahead of huge Sharks clash

Lions captain Marius Louw believes that it is small mistakes that have been costing his team in recent games.

It is a big two training weeks for the stumbling Lions as they prepare to take on the Sharks in what could be a season defining United Rugby Championship (URC) derby at Ellis Park next weekend.

After a tough start to the season the Lions looked to be on the up as they entered the festive period, when they went on a five game winning run in the URC and Challenge Cup that put them in strong positions in both competitions.

ALSO READ: Coach, captain pinpoint areas of concern as Lions fall further back in race for URC top eight

However, since the start of the New Year the Lions have lost four games on the bounce, two in the Challenge Cup, with them still making it through to the next round regardless, and two in the URC, both against close rivals the Bulls in the Jukskei derbies.

Top eight

It has left the Lions in 11th place on the URC log on 24 points, five points behind Ulster and Ospreys in eighth and seventh place respectively, with the top eight qualifying for the competition knockouts which is the Lions goal this season.

A loss against the Sharks at home next weekend would see them slip even further away from that, and with a tough two game European tour to follow, as well as home games against Irish giants Leinster and Munster still to come, it could leave them with too much to do down the back end.

So big improvements are needed from the team in the build-up, and when they take on the desperate Durban side, with their inconsistency in various aspects set to be a key focus heading towards the match.

“It is a big game. The reality is that you can’t be inconsistent in the lineouts, scrums and in your kicking game and not keep the ball on attack. We have to be a lot better in all of those departments,” said Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen after the past weekend’s loss against the Bulls.

“We really trained well (before the game), we probably had our best two training weeks the whole season in terms of improving on those aspects. So to get that result (against the Bulls) was quite disappointing.”

Small mistakes

Lions captain Marius Louw believes that it is small mistakes that have been costing his team in recent games and that they aren’t far off fixing them, which would lead to a better performance.

“We have spoken (recently) about our execution and our errors. It’s not a trend (of errors), it’s just little things every now and then. So that’s definitely something we have to improve on,” said Louw.

The Lions will hope to receive a boost ahead of the Sharks game in the form of livewire looseforward Emmanuel Tshituka, who was ruled out of the Bulls match with a hamstring strain in the build-up.

 “He’s a quality player. You saw that in his previous performance (at Loftus). Losing him late on Wednesday was a bit of a loss. But Ruan Venter coming back from injury did a stellar job. He came in and brought some physicality,” said Van Rooyen.

“But in general Manu’s (Tshituka’s) work rate and with the energy he brings you are going to miss that. He is touch and go for the Sharks game, and if he misses it he should be available for the week after.”

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