Lions expect a resurgent Sharks side in Joburg

rugby28 February 2024 06:27| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Barend Pieterse © Getty Images

Emirates Lions assistant coach Barend Pieterse has warned his side that they will face a much “better” Hollywoodbets Sharks side in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby this weekend in Johannesburg, despite the Sharks being last on the log.

There is a certain desperation in Durban to get back on the winning road again after the season has not gone their way but the Lions did pick up a few pointers from the Sharks close loss to the DHL Stormers in their last game in Durban, and Pieterse believes they have gotten better since they beat them a few weeks ago.

“Watching their game against the Stormers the previous weekend, I think they have already gotten better. It’s not a lot of teams that can come back against the Stormers like that,” Pieterse said.

“I think they have already started with an upward curve. It’s going to be a very tough game. You look at who they can pick that is available.

“We can’t just think that it’s going to happen, we can’t just think playing at three o’clock is going to do it for us in the hot weather. It’s definitely not case anymore with any team coming to our side of the world.”

The Lions have their own issues to deal with and have fallen off the crest of the wave they were on, having lost their last three games, two of which have been against the Bulls.

While coach Ivan van Rooyen said those games were key to their hopes of making the top eight and therefore qualifying for next season’s Champions Cup, the double losses to the Bulls have been a particular blow.

And given the big crowd they pulled for that game, Pieterse wants his team to put on a show that will impress the crowd. For that they have looked inward to see where they could do better and believe they will put on a more complete performance this weekend.

“Had we won our two previous games against the Bulls, I probably would have said we could be a little complacent. But where we are in the season, we definitely cannot be complacent. We had two great training days this week and we also trained well last week,” Pieterse said.

“We took a long hard look at our two losses, what we did wrong and also what we did right, because I mean there was some good stuff as well.

“It is a very important game and we want to go out and win and perform well for the people at home after that wonderful support we got in our last game.”

But the Lions are predicting a close game against the Sharks in any case, yet still believe they have the firepower to win.

“It will definitely be a close game in our minds again, the quality team that the Sharks are, and I think we all know, with the quality players they have and with the quality coaching staff they have, they actually should be in a better position at the moment.

“So I think it will always be a close game against them, it doesn’t matter if it’s in Johannesburg or in Durban. And it will come down to whoever does the small things better. We hope we are that team on the day.”

The performance will be keenly watched as the season moves into the business end, especially as a loss would bring back memories of what could have been and confirm the concerns that despite their early season form, the Lions have fallen back into bad habits again.