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Lions  in need  of big  unit

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The men from the Cape have kept two classy teams scoreless in their first two outings

Lions wing Tyrone Green scores a try against the Reds at Ellis Park on Saturday. Picture: EPA

Lions coach Cash van Rooyen will hope the experienced Willem Alberts gets through his paces unscathed this week and is able to play a part in Saturday’s Super Rugby showdown with the Stormers at Ellis Park.

The Lions are desperately in need of some experience and grunt up front and a fit and firing Alberts may just be the tonic they need to fight a Stormers team that is on fire.

The 35-year-old Alberts has been training with his former team since December in an effort to be fit enough to play Super Rugby again and the hope is that he’ll be ready to feature this weekend.

“We’ll see how he goes this week,” said Van Rooyen, about the man that goes by the name “The Bone Collector” for his crunching tackles.

Alberts has rejoined the Lions from Stade Francais, where he played between 2015 and 2019. Before that he played for the Sharks for several seasons.

“It would be nice to be able to
select him,” added Van Rooyen. “Willem’s got a lot of experience and he’s pretty physical, and we know what’s coming in the Stormers. We know all about their pack.”

The men from the Cape have kept two classy teams – the Hurricanes and the Bulls – scoreless in their first two outings in this year’s competition and are sure to be the biggest test the Lions have faced this year.

And the Lions could do with a bit of a boost this week, following their narrow and far from convincing 27-20 win against the Reds on Saturday. In a match that never reached any great heights, the Lions outscored the Reds four tries to two, but Van Rooyen’s men lacked intensity, they struggled for momentum and continuity and their attacking play in general and set-piece play was disappointing.

The Lions lost three of 16 line-outs and also two of five scrums, with Jannie du Plessis taking a bit of a beating in the set-pieces by former Western Province prop JP Smith, who now plays for the Reds.

The experienced Du Plessis, who joined the Lions at the end of last year, also conceded four penalties, according to the statistics from the game.

“I’m relieved to be honest,” said Van Rooyen about the result. “But, we’ve got a lot to work on … our attack, the defence, set-piece-wise. It’s a step forward from last week (when the Lions lost 38-8 to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires), but we need to fix a few things.”

One area where the Lions did, indeed, show an improvement from the last week was in defence. Against the Jaguares the Lions missed 37 tackles; against the Reds they missed just 12.

With blindside flank Vincent Tshituka possibly set to miss the Stormers game because of concussion, the stage is perhaps set for Alberts to make his return to the Lions and the Super Rugby competition. How they need someone with real presence up front.