Scrumhalf Ross Cronjé believes a victory over the Bulls on Saturday will give the Lions much-needed momentum in the lead-up to the Super Rugby playoffs. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Lions host their provincial neighbours at Ellis Park in the last round of the regular-season matches and need to win to finish top in the South African conference to secure a home quarter-final. By contrast, the Bulls will be playing for pride and hoping to end their season on a high as they are out of the running for a place in the knockouts.
Cronjé says that while the Lions have not fired on all cylinders yet, victory in the derby will be the perfect preparation as they look to gain momentum ahead of the quarter-finals.
‘We haven’t clicked 100% this year, but I think we will peak at the right time. I’m hoping that it’s going to happen against the Bulls. They don’t have anything to play for except pride, but they’d like to get one over us because it hasn’t happened in a while.’
History does favour the Lions, who’ve won five of the last six derbies, including three straight victories between 2016 and 2018, but Cronjé says past results will have no effect on Saturday’s clash.
‘In every game this year, the pressure has been on us. We’ve had to get ourselves up in every match because we haven’t had an easy game yet. We’ve got a job to do on Saturday and that’s all we have to focus on now.’
The Bulls did the Lions a massive favour this past weekend when they beat the Jaguares at Loftus, a result which kept the Johannesburg-based side top of the South African conference and firmly in control of their own destiny with regard to the playoffs.
‘I think it was the first time that the whole of Johannesburg was rooting for the Bulls. So well done to them. They are playing great rugby at the moment. They’ve got a couple of good combinations that have started to click. In saying that, for us, every game – starting this weekend against the Bulls – is a playoff and we are quite excited to go up against them,’ Cronjé explained.
The 28-year-old made his Test debut for the Springboks in 2017, but missed out on selection during the June international window due to injury. Incidentally, the opponents he is likely to face at Ellis Park this weekend, Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl, both made their debuts for the Springboks during that time and Cronjé admits he is keen to measure himself against the Bulls pair.
‘Both have had a great season for the Bulls and got their opportunities to represent the country, so well done to them. It’s definitely exciting for me to come up against quality players like Embrose and Ivan. I’m up for that challenge.’
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