The big puzzle Lions can't solve
The Lions are keen to replicate their ‘tour form’ from earlier in the United Rugby Championship, as they look to arrest their slump before it slips beyond control.
With a four-match European road trip starting at Musgrave Park in the city of Cork on Friday, the Johannesburg-based franchise is looking to upset the odds once more.
After the Round 12 face-off with the inform Irish province, Munster, the Lions have two Challenge Cup matches – Stade Francais in Paris and the Dragons in Newport – before completing the venture with a URC outing against Connacht in Galway.
The Lions managed wins over French giants Stade Francais (30-12 ) and Welsh region Scarlets (32-15) at Ellis Park earlier in the season.
Before that, they also had an unbeaten three-match tour of Europe – beating Ospreys (28-27), Cardiff (31-18) and Edinburgh (22-19).
However, in the last fortnight – in domestic derbies – there was a dramatic shift in form.
Losses to the Sharks (10-37) and Stormers (8-40) saw them drop from fifth on the URC standings to 11th.
The Lions’ veteran Springbok Jaco Kriel said they have been trying to get an answer to that poser for the last couple of weeks.
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“On tour, there are no external distractions,” the 33-year-old told @rugby365com.
“The players can focus on themselves and bond on tour – get to know the guy next to you.”
The 11-times capped Bok said they now need to start performing on South African soil as well.
“It is sad to see,” he said of their troubles with playing South African opposition, something that didn’t bother them during their Super Rugby heydays from 2016 to 2018.
“The players have to make that mental shift, believe that we can beat them,” he said of the domestic derbies.
Looking to their month-long road trip, Kriel put a premium on getting back on the winners’ podium.
“To reach the play-offs, you have to win your home games and at the moment we are not winning our home games, so these away games become more important,” he said, adding that it is going to be tough against a Munster team in Good form.