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Lions linchpin relishing duel with Munster old dog

SPOTLIGHT: Lions scrumhalf Morné van den Berg is relishing the opportunity to play against one of the leading No. 9’s in the business when the Lions host Munster in the United Rugby Championship at Ellis Park on Saturday.

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The 26-year-old Van den Berg has been steadily growing in confidence and settling in as the first choice scrumhalf at the Lions. His only competition comes from Sanele Nohamba, who has transitioned into a mighty fine flyhalf.

The 35-year old Murray has been one of the top scrumhalves in recent years and this month signed a one-year contract extension, which means he will extend his stay in Munster‘s senior side into its 15th year after he made his debut for them in 2010.

He has already won 116 caps for Ireland and also made nine Test appearances for the British & Irish Lions after representing the famous touring team on trips to Australia (2013), New Zealand (2019), and South Africa (2021).

He made his 150th Munster appearance against Connacht in May 2021.

This while Van den Berg only recently appeared on the Bok radar and attended the first Springbok alighment camp earlier in the year.

The Lions scrumhalf says he has been learning from the Ireland and Munster No. 9 for quite some time and believes he will learn even more playing against him.

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“He has been one of the best scrumhalves for a while now. I have been learning from him, taking what I can by watching him,” Van den Berg told media at the Lions training field on Wednesday.

“It doesn’t start this weekend, I’ve been looking at him.

“It’s a challenge I am really looking forward to.”

Van den Berg talked about the quality of the Munster side, but hinted that a victory good be just the five points the Lions need.

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“They have a few internationals, but it is not as if we are looking into them more.

“It’s a process of us forcing ourselves on them, so we take our lessons from Leinster, but it’s a whole new week.

“We start over and it could a very good five pointer for us at home.

“If one focuses too much on them, we will box ourselves in. We do look at what threats they bring, and we have to be better than we were last weekend although it was a good win.

“I feel we can be so much better in certain aspects,” the No. 9 concluded.

His flyhalf Nohamba agreed.

“We watched last week’s game and saw where we want to improve and obviously what we did well, we just carry on.

“Munster is a different challenge, they are more physical. They cause more problems at breakdowns, stuff like that.

“I think they are still an Irish side, but I think it is a completely different challenge for us.

“If we put in a performance and put ourselves in a position to win the game, the rest of the other teams can do what they do, but if you get five points we give ourselves a chance to crack the top eight.

“We strive to have that perfect game. We struggled with the set-piece, that’s when the momentum swung.

“So if we can sort out the set-piece we can negate that dip.”

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