Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions must back up Leinster performance with ‘must-win’ against Munster

It is vitally important that the Lions back-up their superb Leinster performance with another against third placed Munster.

The Lions face a tough task of improving on their impressive win over Leinster when they welcome United Rugby Championship (URC) defending champs Munster to Ellis Park on Saturday evening.

It is the ultimate double header for the Lions, against two Irish giants ranked in the top four of the competition, although they were boosted by facing a largely second-string Leinster, which helped them clinch a thumping 44-12 win.

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However, Munster will be a completely different kettle of fish as they have brought a full strength squad to South Africa, while they will also be flying high after beating the Bulls at Loftus, and they will have spent some good time on the highveld by the time of Saturday’s game.

The Lions are currently 11th on the URC log, level on points with three teams above them and one point off the Stormers in sixth and Ospreys at seventh, making for a stacked log and just one slip up could see a team fall out of the running for a knockout spot.

Back-up performance

It is thus vitally important that the hosts back up their superb Leinster performance with another against third placed Munster, if they want to reach their goal of making the URC playoffs.

That is something that the Lions have struggled to do this season, often following up a strong performance with a poor one, but coach Ivan van Rooyen believes that the tight nature of the log will help the team go on a consistent good run.

“We have our backs against the wall. These are must-win games for us. The trick is to reproduce it against Munster,” explained Van Rooyen after the Leinster match.

“I don’t think altitude will play a role with Munster. They will have been here for 10 or 12 days by Saturday. I think we will have a good, honest review (ahead of the game).

“There is still a fair bit that we can fix to make sure that we keep building on what is working for us and making sure we keep the identity of our game model currently. We feel when we get that right, we are really dangerous. We must make sure that we do our basics really well.”

Breakdown dominance

One of the areas that the Lions dominated in against Leinster was at the breakdown and they will need a similarly impressive showing there if they are to give themselves a chance of beating Munster.

“We knew that if we dominated the tackle there would be an opportunity to counter-ruck. So we definitely slowed the ball down a few times like that. We had a big focus on second efforts at the breakdown and I thought we did that really well,” said Lions captain Marius Louw.

“We got one or two penalties off that. So it’s about getting in a few more repetitions and reading the game situation at every breakdown.”