Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions target the basics to give them the leg up against Ulster

The Lions will be well aware of how important it is to stay within range of Ulster during the match.

The Lions are aiming to get the basics right as they try to finish their United Rugby Championship (URC) European tour on the best possible note when they take on Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Friday night (kick-off 9:35pm).

The Lions head into the game off their first win of the season, against Scarlets in Llanelli last weekend, and they need to claim another positive result to head home with a 50% win ratio, while a loss will see them with just one win from four on the road.

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Lions assistant coach Barend Pieterse is well aware of the challenge that awaits the team and admits that they will be looking to keep it simple against the in-form Irish giants.

“We need to make sure our basics are good. The guys know the environment that we are going into is harsh,” explained Pieterse.

“The weather outside is cold, it’s raining, and the stadium will be sold out again, but everyone is ready for what to expect, and we just have to keep our basics simple. It doesn’t help against a classy team like Ulster if we start doing funny things like playing from our own tryline.”

Conversion rate

One of the big work-ons for the Lions over their past few games has been improving their conversion rate in the red zone and that will again be the focus point against Ulster as if they do not take the points when on offer, they will be punished.

“The big thing that we spoke about during the past four weeks is more calmness when we get into the scoring zone,” said Pieterse.

“Our work rate in general wasn’t what we wanted in the opening game (on tour), but if you look at the last game (against Scarlets), every individual worked very hard, and it just came together for us.”

Bonus points

The Lions will also be well aware of how important it is to stay within range during the match, with them having lost three games this season by five points or less, which has allowed them to pick up crucial bonus points that could play a big part come end of the season.

 “There have been a few points in each loss and we felt those matches could have gone either way, but the most important thing is that we got points out of the games,” said Pieterse.

“If you look at the log now those four losing points are like an extra win for us which is very important.”

On the team front the Lions have made just two changes to their starting XV for the game, with Asenathi Ntlabakanye replacing tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer who is ruled out with a fractured arm, while Willem Alberts comes in at lock for Ruan Delport who drops to the bench.

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