Lions now preparing for Cape Town mission impossible

rugby21 May 2024 07:00
By:Gavin Rich
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Lions players @ gallo images

It may sound like mission impossible, but for the Emirates Lions, next week’s do-or-die Vodacom United Rugby Championship fixture against the DHL Stormers will be one that Ivan van Rooyen’s side are hoping to win.

After their incredible 14-man win over Glasgow Warriors, a result that helped topple the Scottish team from the top of the URC log, the Lions now have a week to rest and recuperate as they look towards the Cape Town trip.

The fact that they were the last side to beat the Stormers in Cape Town in a South African derby may mean little in the context of the game, but the newfound confidence the Lions have after the Glasgow win may well be their biggest weapon as they head down south for the fixture.

The problem is, all through this season, the Lions have failed to back up big wins with a similar result in their next fixture, and that is very front of mind for the Lions coaching staff at the moment.

They will have their captain Marius Louw, back for the fixture, after he withdrew on the morning of the Glasgow Warriors game with a swollen knee, and by now they’ve heard all the jokes on how they should play with 14 men, given their equally impressive win earlier in the season a man down against Connacht in Galway.

Right now the Lions coaching staff will be eagerly studying ways they can put the Stormers under pressure in their own back yard, something they will need to do if they are to sneak into the top eight with a win in Cape Town.


They know the odds are against them, especially given the Stormers record at home, and their own inconsistency, but they are hoping the hunger will drive them forward against their more fancied foes.

The Lions now sit in ninth spot on 49 points, the same as the two sides ahead of them - Edinburgh and Benetton, but those two face each other in a final week showdown.

Ulster, who are on 54 points, can also be overtaken if they lose to Munster in the final round without getting a bonus point. But some of those results will need to go the Lions way, especially if the Sharks win the EPCR Challenge Cup this weekend and grab one of the eight spots on offer for next season’s Investec Champions’ Cup.

“Technically we need to stick to the process, which is the comfortable answer. The Stormers have got an exceptional X-factor, and if you allow them, they can really punish you. We have to look at how we can put them under pressure in terms of way of play,” Van Rooyen said about the match.

“Obviously it is a derby and we have to win to get into the top eight, and they have to win to get into the top four. I can’t think of a better occasion than two South African teams that are willing to punch until the end.

“The first couple of days is to freshen up a bit. We are at week 43 and 44 of the season, so it is reasonably focused on recovering. The first week will be focused on recovering and how we want to play against the Stormers.

“And then the week is getting the bodies ready to face up to the Stormers”

But any thought that they may not be supporting the Sharks this weekend was snubbed out by veteran lock Willem Alberts, who believes the permutations will sort themselves out. And they will be rooting for a Sharks victory, no matter if it costs them in the long run.

“As a South African you have to support the sharks, what will happen will happen. We just need to focus on the Sharks and see how it will play out,” Alberts said.

Still, the win over Glasgow and the chance the Lions still have to keep their season alive makes next weekend’s match all the more appetising.