'Mean' Lions await WP at the den
'Mean' Lions await WP at the denSHARE
The Golden Lions, in their run-up to the Super Rugby promotion-relegation series, have developed a 'mean' streak.
It is this ruthlessness that poses a major threat to a very youthful Western Province team that will take on the Lions at Ellis Park on Friday.
For the men from Johannesburg this is another 'crucial' match, as they strive to regain Super Rugby status.
However, Western Province coach John Dobson – taking a team that will feature a number of Province's exciting young Under-21 players, is using the game as preparation for the upcoming Currie Cup season.
In fact the WP team will be very similar to that which received a drubbing at the hands of the Lions in the Vodacom Cup semifinal at the same venue last month. Although there are 12 players in the matchday squad who still qualify to play for the U21 team, the WP starting XV also features 12 players who started in the Vodacom Cup play-off match.
"We lost a couple of guys onto the Stormers, like Gerbrandt Grobler," Dobson told this website in an interview ahead of Friday's trip up north.
"However, the addition of [Stormers hooker Siyabonga] Ntubeni and Groomie [scrumhalf Nic Groom] sorts of offset that."
Then there is the selection of Tim Swiel at flyhalf, which is probably his best position, with Kurt Coleman injured.
But it is the Lions' attitude in recent matches that showed just how difficult the young and inexperience WP team's task will be this week.
"People thought that with the tour [to North America] called off and the French teams cancelling their trips, the Lions would just fall away," Dobson said.
"However, they [the Lions] are getting meaner and better – we all saw the destruction of Samoa."
Dobson felt the cancelled tour and the decision by the French Top 14 teams to call of their planned trips to Johannesburg may just have worked in favour of the Lions.
"These guys are coming up at the right time," he said, adding: "[To score] 72 points against Samoa is very mean.
"The way they dealt with us in that Vodacom Cup [semifinal] game, I thought we were in with a shout in that game.
"The way they performed in those Vodacom Cup games – putting 40 points past the Sharks [42-25 in the quarterfinal], us [44-25 against WP in the semifinal] and the Pumas [42-28 in the Final] – they are coming right at the right time and it is a settled team.
"You can name their team without seeing it and they are playing the most attractive rugby in South Africa at the moment.
"Obviously they are not playing at Super Rugby level, but it is the style of rugby they played in the Vodacom Cup semifinal.
"We made 170 tackles – it is a fair amount of tackles to make. It just shows the style of rugby [the Lions play], they keep the ball in hand and keep running hard at you."
By Jan de Koning