Lions captain Baywatch Grobbelaar believes their bye early in the season will pay dividends later in the campaign.
The Lions had a rest this weekend and will complete their fourth and final South African derby in a row when they travel to Newlands to face the Stormers.
The Lions have struggled to build up any rhythm after their opening win over the Cheetahs, as numerous elementary errors have thwarted their progress.
A low-key pre-season that consisted of the solitary friendly against the Bulls, as well as a bye after round three has meant areas such as the lineout remain a weakness, but Grobbelaar is confident results will be seen soon.
“The fixture list was set a while ago and we’ve worked it into our programme,” Grobelaar told keo.co.za. “We’ll take it as it is, and while being the first of two teams to have the bye is not ideal, we have planned for it so that it benefits us later in the season.”
The Lions front a Stormers team also struggling for a victory, and Grobbelaar stressed that the Lions believe they can cause an upset. Their last visit to Cape Town the battle was lost but the war won as the Lions progressed to the Absa Currie Cup semis ahead of Western Province despite a loss.
On that occasion, the Lions were lauded and criticised at the same time for their stifling game-plan, as all they needed was to restrict the hosts to a victory of less than 19 points without the bonus point. This paid off as the Lions only lost 14-6 and they proceeded to the play-offs.
However, coach Loffie Eloff has stated the team needs to win away from home and Grobbelaar says the Lions will be in no defensive mode this Saturday.
“Every game in the Super 14 is crucial to get any log points you can,” said Grobbelaar, “and against the Stormers we will go out to play winning rugby.”
The Lions have opted for an expansive approach no matter what the conditions in this year’s competition, and Grobbelaar says it will be the same against the Stormers.
“We want to implement our game plan and to create mismatches on the outside, give our backs time and space and let them have a go,” he said.
Grobbelaar is wary of underestimating the Stormers’ pack – that has been deemed a weakness – but fronted well against the Bulls despite a 14-10 loss.
“Every team you play you try dominate the set-phases and loose rucks,” he said. “This game won’t be any different to us preparing for the Sharks or Bulls, while the Stormers will also try dominate us, especially at the breakdowns that are so important under the hybrid ELVs.”
Grobbelaar has great admiration for the Stormers’ loose trio – which ever option is chosen. Rassie Erasmus has rotated Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen, Luke Watson and Francois Louw this season, and Grobbelaar understands the dilemma the coach faces of settling on one unit.
“I wouldn’t be able to pick which combination is the best either. All four of them are brilliant and will never let their team down, they all play to each other’s strengths and cover up any weaknesses.”
By Grant Ball