Lions unchanged for Dragons challenge

rugby30 November 2023 12:20
By:Brenden Nel
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lion @ Getty Images

After their big win over Zebre, the Emirates Lions have shown faith in the side that performed so well this past week by keeping the same match day23 for their Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against Welsh side Dragons on Saturday.

It hasn’t come as a surprise, but the same side, on top of the news that the majority of the squad have extended their contracts, will bring some smiles back to Emirates Airline Park as they look to use the altitude and fast field to their advantage against a Dragons side that will be competitive, but look up against the odds.

After losing by almost 70 points on the weekend, and now with a flyhalf crisis, the Welsh side look like lambs to the slaughter, although the Lions have found ways to shoot themselves in the foot in the past.

Still, it does feel like there is something brewing in Johannesburg and a confident Lions side on home turf will be hard to stop.

Led by Marius Louw again, the Lions boast a number of players who are quickly making a name for themselves, including backline players such as Quan Horn, Henco van Wyk and new flyhalf sensation Sanele Nohamba.

The loose trio of Francke Horn, Ruan Venter and Emmanuel Tshituka can take on the best in the competition while Asenathi Ntlabakanye looks set to be a future Springbok if he carries on in this form.

Dragons coach Dai Flanagan has demanded a response from his side and said discipline would be the key to upsetting the Lions.

“We need discipline to stick with what we say we're going to do,” he said.

“Whether that turns into a 10-point loss or a one-point win, we've got to be disciplined.

“You know the challenge when you come to South Africa,” he added.

“They try to blow you away in the first 20 minutes, they know the heat is tough in that period. But it's the same for everyone.

“You watch the African teams when they come to Europe, but they are a completely different team at home. It's like it's a different sport out here with the speed, the hard grounds, the athletes.

“You compare the Lions game against Zebre to everything they've played in Europe, and it is completely different.

“They know it’s going to be warm, and they're going to try and throw the ball around. It'd be nice if we could do that instead.”

Flanagan was particularly disgusted at his side’s capitulation in Durban in the final 20 minutes.

“We’ve had to rip up the schedule that was planned this week and restructure a lot earlier,” admitted Flanagan on the Dragons website.

“We needed to make sure we didn't just say ‘we're going to get better’ because the last 20 minutes (against the Sharks) was tough to take for me, players, fans, and everyone affiliated with the club. We can’t accept that.

“We go into games with themes. You can't give every player every decision to make, but you can have a theme on what you need to do to be in the game.

“We saw that for 40 or 50 minutes - then we didn't see anywhere near that theme.

“A big one was not giving Sharks anything to feed on. We fed them and you can see in the last 20 minutes of the game, we gave them opportunity after opportunity.

“We've got to protect ourselves - we can't afford to just keep giving because the score mounts up. We are out here to represent everyone associated with us and we can't afford that to happen.”

Emirates Lions: Quan Horn; Richard Kriel, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw (captain), Edwill van der Merwe; Sanele Nohamba, Morne van den Berg; Francke Horn, Ruan Venter, Emmanuel Tshituka, Ruan Delport, Ruben Schoeman, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, PJ Botha, JP Smith.

Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Corne Fourie, Ruan Smith, Willem Alberts, Hanru Sirgel, JC Pretorius, Jordan Hendrikse, Rabz Maxwane.