The Lions had gone into the competition with an “open mind” and not expecting too much
The Lions are now just two wins away from turning an average year into something to remember, according to prop Dylan Smith.
After playing in the final of the Super Rugby competition between 2016 and 2018 the Lions missed out on the play-offs this season and also only snuck into the Currie Cup semi-finals.
But they managed to end second on the log and will host a semi-final at Ellis Park this weekend – against Griquas.
Win that game and they’ll be one step away from doing what they did in 2015 – winning the Currie Cup.
“It would be the cherry on top,” said Smith in the build-up to this Saturday’s showdown with Griquas, who the Lions beat in Kimberley last weekend to secure second place on the points table. “We’re looking at things as if there are two games to go, so it’s exciting (after the year we’ve had).”
With several seasoned players having decided to leave the Lions after Super Rugby, stand-in coach Ivan van Rooyen was left with no option but to field a young team in the Currie Cup. While the team has played well at times they’d be the first to admit they’ve been far from convincing.
Smith though said the Lions had gone into the competition with an “open mind” and not expecting too much.
“There have been so many changes to the side and among the coaches … so many new players that have come in, it’s really been a big learning experience for a lot of the guys,” said the specialist loosehead.
“The Currie Cup’s been a great place for these youngsters to start, to get used to bigger rugby … and it’s been a great way to prepare for next year’s Super Rugby competition, where we’re again going to have a lot of new faces.”
The last time the Lions won the Currie Cup was also in a World Cup year … “And look what happened the next year … we had a great Super Rugby run (which lasted for three years), so let’s hope 2019 is also good to us,” said Smith.
Standing the Lions in good stead this week is the fact they faced – and beat – Griquas in Kimberley last Saturday and know what to expect. “They’re a physical team and they’re not easy to play against,” said Smith. “We’re certainly going to have to bring more to the party this week.”
Both the Lions and Griquas teams will be named today. The winner at Ellis Park (kick-off at 2pm) will face either the Free State Cheetahs or the Sharks in the final, to be contested next weekend.