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Lions plan to take the fight to Cardiff

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An attacking game plan certainly makes sense as the Lions find themselves with little room to manoeuvre in the URC and limited options to consider.

Emirates Lions’ Jordan Hendrikse. Picture: Bryan Keane, INPHO, Shutterstock (14399398aq)

Morgan Bolton

IF WEDNESDAY was any indication of what the Lions’ plan is this weekend, then Cardiff best get themselves prepared for an all-out assault on their lines using power and pace.

The Joburgers had an enjoyable training match, tossing the pill around with glee as they prepared for the Welsh franchise in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash at Ellis Park (6.15pm kick-off).

An attacking game plan certainly makes sense as the Lions find themselves with little room to manoeuvre in the URC and limited options to consider.

It has become a case of offence now being much better than any defence.

The disappointing loss to Munster just slightly over 10 days ago has surely assured that, as has the desperation to climb out of 11th and into the play-off spots.

There were playmakers aplenty at the session – Sanele Nohamba, Jordan Hendrikse, Gianni Lombard and Quan Horn, back from injury, were all involved, interchanging roles and positions.

They will all surely be named in the matchday 23 on Friday when coach Ivan van Rooyen, watching manfully just behind scrumhalf Morné van den Berg during the drills, names his team for the clash.

What piqued interest especially was Nohamba falling into the backfield, Hendrikse and Lombard running the first receiver channel at flyhalf and inside centre, and then switching with a snap of the finger to run support for Nohamba at pivot.

“The good thing about having Sanele and Jordan, even Gianni, we have playmakers that can play 10 and 15,” Lions attack coach Ricardo Loubscher admitted, with a wry smile, after training.

“Jordan can also back-up as a 12. It’s about making sure in the backfield we have got the right players there that can give us kicking or running options.

“Our view is that we have Sanele there (at No 10) who has been really good for us over the last few games. Jordan at 12 will bring something different with his physicality, his kicking, but also his playmaking skills.

“So, whether it is from first phase or general play, it is a good thing to have another playmaker that can get us over the gain line, or maybe to shift the ball to the wings.”

Cardiff might be lowly in the URC standings, but they remain a bit of an enigma.

Despite sitting 12th, 14 points behind the Lions, they have 11 bonus points – nine of them losing bonus points – which accounts for nearly half of their points.

Indeed, they have lost only two matches by more than seven points this season in the URC – most recently to Edinburgh 24-7, and earlier in the campaign 33-20 to Leinster.

Had the bounce of the ball diverted a centimetre or two in any direction, a raft of victories could have fallen their way. There can be no complacency from the Lions based on the assumption that they will have the rub of the green on the day.

“If you look at their stats, defensively they are quite strong,” Loubscher said when assessing the visitors. “They bring a lot of physicality into contact. They make doubles and choke tackles. There are a lot of two-man tackles. At the breakdown, they are forcing a lot of turnovers.

“The biggest mistake for us is to think that it is just going to happen. We need the right to go and score tries.

“To do that, we need to get into the right positions, get a good base, a good set piece, get over the gain line and make sure we are making good decisions.”

There was a moment of worry during training when No.8 Francke Horn left the field with a slight bit of discomfort, but his pain only offered up opportunities for his teammates to take a jab or two at his lounging figure sprawled out next to the sidelines.It turned out to be nothing more than a lammie.

The rest of the squad, meanwhile, looked in rude health, with fullback Quan Horn also enjoying a fine day out.

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