Lions definitely not running out of puff and are primed to peak right now
THEY may have stuttered somewhat in the last fortnight but the Lions have scoffed at suggestions they are a fatigued outfit at this late stage of the Super Rugby season.
In fact, said conditioning coach Ivan van Rooyen in the build-up to Saturday’s semi-final showdown with the Hurricanes at Ellis Park, the Lions are primed to peak right now.
And they will certainly have to be on top of their game on Saturday if they’re to get past last year’s defending champions and the same side that beat them 50-17 in Joburg in the 2016 regular season and 20-3 in the final in Wellington.
But a dip in form and intensity in back-to-back games against the Sharks going into this weekend’s match has raised concerns the Lions may be suffering because of the heavy workload the players have had to endure this season. The majority of them have been going since February and in June when many players were able to put their feet up and relax, the bulk of the Lions were involved in the three-Test series against France, while certain players also ran out for the SA ‘A’ team against the French Barbarians.
Are the Lions running out of puff then? No way, said Van Rooyen: “We always knew a lot of guys would be involved with the Boks and SA ‘A’ so we managed them before the June break and afterwards. We also had an idea some time ago that we’d be playing in the knockout rounds so again we were able to manage their workloads in training.
“What the majority of the players have experienced this season, playing regularly, and virtually on every weekend, has no role in how the team performs at the weekend.”
Courtnal Skosan (pictured) with 1 220 minutes played out of a possible 1 280 from the 16 games the Lions have played this season (including last weekend’s quarter-final), has the most number of minutes behind him. He is sixth on the overall competition list for number of minutes played, having played virtually every minute of every game, and then also the three Bok Tests in June.
Another new Lions Bok, fullback Andries Coetzee, is 20th on the list for minutes clocked up, with
1 129 minutes. Harold Vorster – who featured for the SA ‘A’ team – is next among the Lions players and he’s followed by Franco Mostert and Elton Jantjies, both of whom were regulars for the Boks in the three Tests in June. In total, 10 Lions players turned out for the Boks and four others for SA ‘A’.
“The June Tests were really only disruptive in the sense the players left us to join another set-up for a while, but it didn’t have any impact. Everyone is on the same page regarding training schedules, time on the field and recovery.”
Van Rooyen said Saturday’s match would certainly pose new and different challenges to the players.
“It’s definitely a test of a different kind and we know we’re going to have to go for the full 80 minutes; that’s a given. The Hurricanes, however, know they’re also going to have to go for the full 80.”
Johan Ackermann will name his line-up today.
Jacques van der Westhuyzen