Victory second to structure

The Lions are determined to produce clinical rugby this Saturday regardless of the result.

Execution was the Lions’ primary problem in last year’s campaign. Loffie Eloff’s charges were able to manoeuvre themselves into promising positions, but poor finishing cost them time and again. Eloff has gone to great lengths to curb this affliction, and Saturday marks the first step towards building some momentum ahead of a demanding season.

“The win is certainly not our main focus,” Lions centre Jaco Pretorius told keo.co.za. “If we were about to face the Bulls in a Super 14 match, then yes, we would have to formulate a strategy specific to their strengths and weaknesses. But we’ve seen no video footage of them this season. It’s not so important from that perspective, it’s more of a selfish approach. We just want to get through the phases and build some rhythm before the real competition starts.”

The Lions have two major injury concerns with centre Jaque Fourie out for six weeks and flyhalf Andre Pretorius out for four months. They are short on depth in a several positions, but if they avoid further injury, Pretorius is confident they can succeed as a unit.

“We are quite a settled side. Most of us played in the Currie Cup final last year, so we understand each other very well. The guys are very excited to just get out there and play. The pre-season is nearing an end and we will finally get the chance to put all the hard work into practice.”

There have been some questions surrounding the Lions’ scheduling of two practice matches against the Bulls and one against the Sharks in the space of a week. The second-stringers went down 32-24 to the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup team on Thursday, and several of the players involved at Wits will turn out again in Windhoek.

Pretorius said the practice against Super 14 teams is crucial to their preparation for the opening fixture against the Cheetahs on 16 February.

“It’s great to go up against another Super 14 team, as it’s a good indicator of where you stand. Going up against last year’s champions will be beneficial, and I’m sure it’s going to be great for the Namibian crowd as well. It should be a very competitive clash,” he said.

“The Bulls have a number of Springboks in their line-up and they’re an accomplished and complete outfit. We know it’s going to be tough, but even though we don’t have as many Springboks in our line-up, I’m confident we can put in a good performance.”

By Jon Cardinelli