Lions aim for rare ‘three-peat’

Battered into submission by the table-topping Blues at the weekend, the Lions are determined to bounce back against the Chiefs this week and record a first-ever “three-peat” by a South African team in Australasia.

Lions coach Eugene readily admits that his charges were taught some “harsh” lessons by a superb Blues outfit, who dominated the South Africans physically.

But far from being downbeat after the 41-14 drubbing in Auckland, the Lions have “lifted their heads” and are determined to end their Australasian tour on a high when they tackle the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.

The Lions became the first South African team to win back-to-back matches in Australasia when they beat the Western Force and Reds on consecutive weekends. The Bulls became the second team record back-to-back wins in Australia when they beat the Brumbies and Waratahs in the past fortnight.

The only other South African team to win two matches in one year in Australia was the Stormers, but their two Australian wins were split by two defeats in New Zealand.

And no South African team has won more than two matches in Australasia. The Sharks and Stormers have done the “double” on a number of occasions and now the Bulls and Lions have obviously added their names to that list.

But three wins on a tour by a South African team has never been done before.

“If we can win on Friday night we’ll have three from four … a 75 percent record and that is not bad,” Eloff said of his team’s encounter with the Chiefs.

“We won’t lie down, our heads are up,” Eloff said about the heavy loss they suffered at the hands of the Blues.

“We spoke about all the emotions [from the defeat] and we have started working towards the Chiefs game.

“We know it will be very tough, but the players showed character by playing right to the end against the Blues.”

Eloff said his team will need to raise the bar considerably in the physical challenges against the Chiefs, an aspect of their game that was certainly not up to standard against the Blues.

“It is going to be physically just as tough, if not tougher, than what we encountered against the Blues. But the ice has been broken in terms of the physical aspects.

“Now we have to outsmart them [the Chiefs],” he added.

Eloff spoke at length about what went wrong against the Blues, with the two early scores by the home side having locked the Lions back – a situation they never recovered from.

He said his team started “hesitating” after those early scores and never took the game to the Blues.

“We froze [after the early scores] and the entire first half they scored points from our mistakes.

“It appeared as if the players panicked, they missed first time tackles and we failed to take the few opportunities that came our way.

“It was our first real physical game, but the players have learnt a lot from it.

“The heads are not hanging.”

Eloff also said his team were “gentlemen” in a game in which the referee allowed the Blues lots of leeway at the breakdown – allowing them to dive over the top and sneak around the edges to secure turnover ball.

“I told the players if that’s what referees allow. we must also do it. We simply stood back too much in the physical exchanges.

“We were gentleman. When they [the Blues] dove in we didn’t rake them and we didn’t clean them out. We did everything according to the laws and waited for the referee to manage the situation.

“That was an important lesson that we learnt. We stood back and waited for the play and we have certainly learnt many lessons from that game.”

Eloff revealed that lock Cobus Grobler suffered a small tear in his shoulder and while the full extent of the damaged will only be confirmed on Monday, he has been ruled out of the final tour match.

The Lions won’t be calling up any replacements.

“We have enoug

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