Three former Springboks on what the Lions must do to beat the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby semi-final at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Thinus Delport (ex-Lions and Springbok fullback/wing)
'First of all, the Lions have to show massive improvement from what we saw in the last game against the Sharks. The Sharks put a lot of pressure on them defensively and forced the Lions to make mistakes, which they haven’t really made this year. There were a few handling errors because of that pressure. In saying that, the Lions shouldn’t change too much in terms of the way they play. The Hurricanes are a very dangerous counter-attacking team, so the Lions should try to prevent giving them opportunities to counter-attack from turnovers, so they have to keep the ball in hand. The Lions’ biggest work-on this week has got to be making those smart decisions of when to play and not force all those unnecessary passes or the quick throw-ins like the one by Andries Coetzee last Saturday [which resulted in an interception and Sharks try]. They just have to be little bit more patient in terms of that exciting attack we know they have.'
Christiaan Scholtz (ex-Lions and Springbok centre)
'It’s going to be a tough game for the Lions because they haven’t played against the New Zealand teams this year, but they don’t need to make any drastic changes to the way they approach the match. All they have to do is improve on the things they are already doing. Place-kicking is always vital in playoff matches, we’ve seen Jordie Barrett bang them over in recent weeks for the Hurricanes, so Elton Jantjies must step up in that department on Saturday. The Lions may need him to win the game at the end with a kick at goal. The teams have similar playing styles, but with home-ground advantage, I think the Lions are definitely going to win.'
Werner Swanepoel (ex-Cats, Bulls and Springbok scrumhalf)
'If you look at the Lions and how they have performed this past season and over the past three years in general, they obviously have a structure and a plan that works. It would be silly to try and change their game plan. They have a philosophy and the players must stick to it for their semi-final. There’s no need to panic after just two bad games [against the Sharks]. New Zealand sides like using the rush defence, and that is what caught the Lions off-guard against the Sharks too. Knowing Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin, they’ll have worked out a plan to get past that rush defence. With guys like Franco Mostert and Jaco Kriel, the Lions might use brutal force to go over the Hurricanes if they can’t get around them, so the Sharks’ ploy was actually a blessing in disguise for the Lions. They will definitely have to tweak a few things, especially on attack. I’d expect them to play a little bit closer to Elton Jantjies and Ross Cronjé, just to keep the Hurricanes’ defensive line honest. We know the damage the Lions can cause when they go wide, but they have to earn the right first.’
Interviews by Mariette Adams
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images