Fun-loving Lions to let rip

Scoring tries and enjoying their rugby. These are the two main goals for the Lions as they enter the final phase of their Super 14 campaign – a run of four all-South African derbies.

The Lions ‘home’ run starts against the Stormers at Newlands this Saturday, after which they will have a bye. They then face the Bulls (in KJohannesburg), the Sharks (in Durban) and the Cheetahs (in Johannesburg).

And with a place in the play-offs still a distinct possibility the Lions will certainly not be holding anything back in the next few weeks.

“It is now the exciting part of the Super 14 season,” is how the Lions’ utility back Jaco Pretorius described the next five weekends.

“We can’t wait for the final run-in … all four home derbies,” he added.

According to Pretorius the Lions realise they are not that far off the pace in terms of the quality of their rugby.

They have already knocked of two of the top four teams this season – the Crusaders and the Western Force – and last Saturday came within one score of a crucial win over the Brumbies – a game the Lions lost 9-14.

“A lot has been made of how young we are how much we still have to learn, but every player knows how close we are to becoming a big team,” Pretorius said.

“We are taking it one game at a time and focus on each game. Yes, a close defeat is frustrating, but it is part of a learning curve.

“With a bit of luck the close ones can go in our favour and it is now time that we realise we can big put teams away and we must realise that when we are at nine all [as they were against the Brumbies last week] we do have the ability to go and score three or four tries.

“We must just start believing that,” he added.

Last year a close loss to Western Province in the Currie Cup, after a run of poor defeats, saw the Lions go on an eight-match winning spree. Pretorius said he hopes the narrow defeat to the Brumbies this past week could be a similar catalyst.

“The Brumbies are truly a top class team and for us to be competitive against them for 80 minutes is something that will boost the team’s confidence.

“But we want to start getting bonus points for scoring tries – that is the one big hurdle we have to overcome.

“Once that monkey is off our backs, we will be a really tough team.”

Pretorius feels the Lions are on the right track and that the errors which are costing them games are basic errors.

“It is not as if there is something badly wrong with our structures and our game. We know we are on the right track.

“We just need to get quality first phase possession and then we’ll be a killer outfit, then we’ll be able to put away the big guns.

“It is simply a case of continuing to work hard and taking the right decisions at crucial time … hopefully that will come with time as the team gains experience.”

While Pretorius won’t be playing this week, against the Stormers, he has a message to his teammates for the trip to Newlands.

They must remember that our successes of the past was built on the fact we enjoyed what we did and we played with energy … that we must show it on the field.

“We don’t really have anything to lose and I think it is the team that makes the first move that will be serious contenders for the play-offs.

“That is why we must go out there and enjoy what we do – we must make the first move on Saturday.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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