Lions ready for Kings challenge
While admitting that the MTN Lions have a point to prove when they take on the Southern Kings in their next Lions Challenge match this weekend, captain JC Janse van Rensburg has moved to play down the significance of the friendly.
There is no doubt there are a lot of smarting Lions fans across the country at the moment. While watching the Kings court controversy at every corner, appoint foreign coaches and deny Saru’s ruling of just two overseas players, the Lions have had to be content with friendly matches against second-string sides and the prospect of no Super Rugby action this year.
Add to that the Kings’ lack of willingness to promote the welfare of their black player base – the reason they were formed in the first place – and it isn’t any wonder that the Lions will have loads of support for their game this weekend.
Yet the game is still just a pre-season friendly. But to so many who feel aggrieved with Saru’s decision to exclude the Lions from Super Rugby, Saturday’s game will be more of a revenge festival.
The Lions themselves have admitted this is a game they want to win. And while they may not say it openly, it is a game they would want to win handsomely.
Janse van Rensburg was at pains to tone down the rhetoric ahead of the mouth-watering clash.
“Everybody is making a big thing about the Kings game, but for us it’s important to stay focused on what we want to do. There is a certain type of game-plan we want to achieve. It is an important game for us which we want to win, but the real important game is actually the promotion-relegation game against whoever we play,” Janse van Rensburg said.
While the Lions captain is correct and the focus should be on building up to the July promotion-relegation clash, the reality is that a win over the Kings here will go a long way in terms of confidence.
The Lions have also been mixing and matching teams in their three matches thus far and this weekend may be the first we see of a full-strength side.
The game is of course important for another reason. Johan Ackermann and his coaching staff will want a lot of depth so that the return of players on loan is a bonus, and not a necessity when their playoff arrives.
“There’s a lot of hard work on Monday. It is a big game and I’m sure coach will pick his strongest team, but we have to go back and work hard to enforce the game plan we want to play.
“We want to try and give these players experience, so that if it comes down to the promotion-relegation game, we have a good squad in good nick that we don’t necessarily have to rely on those players.”
For the Kings this is also a must-win game, to show the rest of the nation they belong in this league. Either way, it’s likely to be a cracker of a game.