Lions cap­tain calls for a deadly first half

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

IF THE the Golden Lions are to stand a chance of get­ting the bet­ter of the Sharks at Coca-Cola Park tonight they will have to draw on the speech coach Hans Coet­zee and cap­tain Cobus Grobbe­laar gave the play­ers on the eve of their match against the Blue Bulls at Lof­tus Vers­feld way back back in round one on July 10.

On that oc­ca­sion the Lions started the clash like the prover­bial house on fire, with plenty of com­mit­ment and pas­sion which saw them into a 13-0 lead at half­time.

Since then, how­ever, the Lions have started their matches slug­gishly, which nearly cost them dearly against the Chee­tahs, and against Gri­quas two weeks ago, it did prove to be their un­do­ing. And things haven’t been any bet­ter against much weaker op­po­si­tion in the Leop­ards and Boland.

Bar their open­ing round dis­play, the Lions have bat­tled to get the early up­per­hand against their op­po­nents and should they not fire from the off to­day they could be in for a tor­rid evening’s work.

“We’ve fo­cused this week on start­ing well ... but it’s not as if it’s some­thing we’re do­ing wrong as a team,” said Grobbe­laar in the build-up to the match.

“It’s just been lit­tle in­di­vid­ual er­rors which have let us down in the early stages of our matches. But, yes, we have to make sure we’re not on the back foot again.”

Grobbe­laar said the key to get­ting the up­per­hand against a side like the Sharks was to en­sure the set-pieces op­er­ate smoothly. “It all comes down to ball pos­ses­sion and that means en­sur­ing winning the ball in the tight phases.”

While the Lions have func­tioned fairly ef­fec­tively at scrum and line-out time this sea­son, they face a big test to­day against a Sharks side boast­ing some ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers.

The promis­ing Lions front row and vet­eran sec­ond row face a tough time but it’s in the back row where mat­ters may be set­tled. The Lions will need more of a pres­ence at the rucks than Grobbe­laar mak­ing a nui­sance of him­self as the vis­i­tors pos­sess a po­tent loosetrio. Will this be the stage when big Lions No 8 Willem Al­berts comes into his own?

With no Rory Kock­ott, Juan Martin Her­nan­dez, Ruan Pien­aar or Adrian Ja­cobs turn­ing out for the Sharks, the bat­tle among the backs will be a fairly even one.

So, Once again, it’ll be a tie that will be set­tled up front, with the teams’ goal-kick­ers – Monty Du­mond and Herkie Kruger – set to play a piv­otal role.

Cobus Grobbe­laar

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