Lions expect to face "desperate" Sharks - Loubscher

rugby27 February 2024 06:00| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Henco van Wyk © Gallo Images

Despite the fact that they shocked them in Durban a few weeks ago, the Emirates Lions are expecting a “desperate” Hollywoodbets Sharks side to arrive in Johannesburg for their Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby this coming weekend.

The Sharks have won just one fixture in the URC this season and after their loss to the Stormers a week ago are desperately looking for that elixir to be on the right side of the scoreline.

But they are likely to encounter an equally desperate Lions team that a few weeks ago were eyeing top four status, only to be given a massive setback by the double losses against the Vodacom Bulls.

Their last game at home, where they never really fired a shot at the Bulls, and their EPCR Challenge loss against the Ospreys has set them back somewhat in their season plans, even though their progress was acknowledged by the call up of six players to the Springbok alignment camp that takes place in Cape Town next week.

“The Sharks will be desperate but so will we after our performance against the Bulls,” former Springbok assistant coach and current Lions assistant Ricardo Loubscher said ahead of the clash.

“There was a lot of frustration and disappointment when coming away from that Bulls disappointment. The big thing is to just take our opportunities. We had chances in that game.

“Our big focus will be just in the moment, composure and when the opportunities are there we need to take them.”

The Lions have surprised a lot of sides this year but struggled with consistency in recent times. That has prompted a lot of soul-searching in the off-weeks after the Bulls game to rectify what went wrong and why they looked so flat on attack.

“Our planning needs to be spot-on. We have done a lot of research in terms of the Bull game, analysis and soul searching to focus on our strengths and really try and improve there. Hopefully, the next game is the ideal opportunity for us.”

Loubscher was full of praise for the young turks that got their invites to the alignment camps and while it isn’t a Bok call-up, it is acknowledgement for the hard work that the players have put in over the past few seasons.

The Lions stars Henco van Wyk, Quan Horn, Sanele Nohamba, Jordan Hendrikse, Ruan Venter and Morne van den Berg were all given invites to the camp.

“You look at the names they picked. Henco, Quan, Sanele, Jordan, Morne, Ruan, these players have an X-factor that they bring to our team and hopefully they can take their game to the next level,” said Loubscher.

“We hope they will get an opportunity to take it further than just the alignment camp, but we are all excited, we are excited for them. And I think that is a step in the right direction for us.

“A lot of credit must also go to our recruitment system, these boys played for us at junior level and ideally that’s what we are looking for.

“For them to make the step-up from junior rugby and get into the United Rugby Championship (URC) or the Challenge Cup squad. But we are really excited and can’t wait for their opportunity.”

Loubscher believes that the players will benefit from the camp and will learn a lot from the experience.

“A lot of credit must go to them, they are working really hard. I think it is a great opportunity, just to get into a different environment, to get a feel for what it is like to be part of a Springbok set-up where the intensity is right up there,” he added.

“The preparation, the attention to detail, and getting a feel of training with someone like a Pieter-Steph du Toit. I hope they are going to come back and all the intellectual property will filter through to our players and our squad. Who knows, maybe we will see five more players there.”

“That was our game plan from the start, to fast track those boys, give them opportunity, get exposure at this level and hopefully they can become great Springboks one day.”