The iconic stadium will not be much of an advantage to the hosts in this high stakes do-or-die clash
BY THE time the final round-robin game of Super Rugby kicks off at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria at 5.15pm on Saturday, the Bulls and Lions will know exactly what is required to qualify for the quarter-finals next week.
The Bulls in fifth place and the Lions (sixth) are not guaranteed a place in the last eight, but one would think the winners on Saturday would be assured of a spot.
The losers, probably not, but they could still sneak in if other results go their way, while a draw and two points each would probably be enough to see them both advance.
So, is there an advantage to not knowing what’s at stake before kick-off?
“I didn’t even know we were playing the last game,” said Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi (pictured)yesterday. “That’s something for the coaches to think about. I just want to go out and play rugby and enjoy myself, do my job.”
It shouldn’t make any difference – they always want to win – and Dyantyi isn’t too fazed about taking on the Bulls at a venue that was once considered extremely intimidating for visiting teams.
“It’s like a home ground for me,” he said when quizzed about playing at Lotfus this weekend.
“We trained there in preparation for the New Zealand Test last year, and at the end of the day, rugby is rugby; I go out on the field to enjoy myself, whether it is here or in New Zealand.
“It’s always good playing in front of your own fans, but we’re pros and must do what we need to do considering what is at stake this weekend, that we need to get a positive result.
“Playing at Loftus doesn’t change anything; both teams are used to the conditions; both play on the Highveld, so no one gets an advantage.”
It has been an up-and-down season for all the South African teams, with the Lions having won eight of 15 games, the Bulls and Stormers seven, and the Sharks six.
Dyantyi said the fans should not be comparing this Lions team to the ones that played in the finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“We have new players in the team, we tried a few different things this year, but we also need to compliment the other teams who’ve come up.
“Everyone has been trying to prove a point in a World Cup year, so it’s been really competitive and unpredictable. It’s been one of those years where everyone has been able to beat anyone. It’s been tight and it’ll be that way (up) to the final.”
Regarding his own form, which has shown an upward curve in recent weeks, Dyantyi said he was pleased.
“Coming from last season you can imagine there was a lot of expectation (of me). It hasn’t been easy from last season; there were expectations and I struggled with some niggles. But I was given time off to sort things out, do my rehab work, and right now I’m enjoying the space I’m in. I’m steadily building (to where I want to be).”
And that’s possibly Japan and the World Cup, but not that Dyantyi is even thinking about that.
“I’m not even in the team yet. All I want to do is play well for my franchise to stand a chance of making that team.
“My focus is on the Lions and that’s it.”