Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions banking on home ground advantage to get them into URC top 8

The Lions may have a good chance of beating Leinster, if they decide to leave all their stars at home and bring a second-string team to SA.

The Lions are aiming to turn Ellis Park into a fortress over the next four rounds in the United Rugby Championship (URC) as they chase a place in the competition’s top eight to make the playoffs.

The 11th placed Lions have five pool matches left in the URC this season, with the next four at home before they face a tough final game away against the Stormers in Cape Town to end things off.

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Despite playing their next four at home on the highveld against overseas opposition, it won’t be easy for the Lions and they will have to be at their absolute best if they are to get the wins they need to force themselves into the playoff places.

With them hosting Irish giants Leinster and Munster, as well as Welsh side Cardiff and Scottish high flyers Glasgow Warriors, it is set to be an extremely difficult end-of-season home run.

In-form challengers

Currently Leinster are top of the URC log, Glasgow are second and Munster are fourth, while the only team below them on the log that they will face are Cardiff who are one spot off them in 12th place.

The Lions however may have a good chance of getting a win over Leinster, if they decide to leave all their stars at home and bring a second-string team to SA, as they have done in previous seasons, but that still won’t guarantee a win after the Lions were beaten by those second stringers last season.

Glasgow and Munster are both chasing top four places and both were recently knocked out of the Champions Cup, so they are both likely to bring full strength teams which will be the ultimate test for the Lions, while Cardiff will be firm underdogs in that game.

“It’s good to be back in Joburg and we are ready to tackle the remaining fixtures in the URC,” said Lions captain Marius Louw.

“We have some big home games coming up against very good teams. The guys are fired up and ready for what lies ahead. We are going to rely heavily on home ground advantage to get us into the top eight in the coming weeks.

“But we are confident. Our preparations since coming back have gone well and we have a good week to prep as best as we can for Leinster. They are a top side so we are expecting quite a tough game.

“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to achieve a top eight finish. That’s still in our plans and that’s what we are working towards over the next five to six weeks. We are not thinking beyond that.”

Bright moments

Despite the up and down nature of their season so far, that could end with them missing out on the playoffs for a third straight season, Louw admitted that there had been a few bright moments, but that his team could also do better.

“It has been a tough season but there have been a few positives that we can take out of it so far. Collecting points in close encounters overseas and beating the Sharks home and away have been highlights,” said Louw.

“We have also been very competitive both home and away, however I feel we can improve in certain areas. But the job is not done so we are keeping our heads down and working hard.”