Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen says his side will look to put together an 80-minute performance in the Currie Cup final against the Cheetahs on Saturday.
This young Lions team have made an uncanny knack of falling behind early in matches before coming back to steal a win in the final 20 minutes.
This was no less evident than in the round robin meeting between these two sides in early August, also in Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs flew into a 19-point lead in the first half and looked set to claim a comfortable win with the Lions looking erratic.
However, the visitors turned things around in the second half and score 21 unanswered points before flyhalf Sean Reynolds slotted a penalty to give the Lions a two-point win.
Speaking after naming his team on Thursday, Van Rooyen said the nature of their season could be down to various factors, but added that the Lions would need a more complete performance in their return to Bloemfontein.
‘There are a lot of factors around the last 20 minutes. It might be conditioning or it might be the type of player you bring in that makes that difference. For us, to say it is down to conditioning would be unfair to the whole system. It might be down to our conditioning or that we have quality guys on the bench.
’80 minutes is a long time. Three or four weeks ago we were asked how we were going to start better. It still is a factor. They want to play in those last 20 to 30 minutes and we are aware of that. So we need an 80 minute performance.
Van Rooyen said the Lions are wary of the Cheetahs’ willingness to counter-attack from their own half, evident in the hosts’ semi-final win over the Sharks, where they ran in four tries in the last 20 minutes.
‘They have got a good set-piece and can attack from anywhere,’ Van Rooyen said.
‘They want to speed up the game. That is what we feel. So we want to stay in the moment and to be ready because you never know what to expect from the Free State. We want to stick to what we do.’
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images