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VIDEO: The 'tough' conversations the Lions had this week

The Lions may have finally broken their losing run in domestic derbies, but the next three rounds of the United Rugby Championship may well see them in another slump.

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The Ellis Park-based franchise was on a nine-match losing streak against South African opposition – dating back to their win over the Stormers in Cape Town in December 2021.

However, they have won two of their last three derbies – beating the Bulls (29-25 in Pretoria) in March last year, losing (33-35) to the Stormers in Johannesburg in October and beating the Sharks (20-18) in Durban in the beginning of this month.

Those two away wins put an interesting spin on the Lions’ trip up the N1 to Pretoria on Saturday – a Round Nine catch-up match against the Bulls.

The encounter was originally scheduled for late December, but in a strategic marketing move, it was delayed till when the Gauteng holidaymakers returned from the coastal ventures.

Following Saturday’s game the Lions have two more derbies – the return matches against the Bulls on February 17 and the Sharks on March 2, both at Ellis Park.

It is a massive challenge for a team that has not been the most consistent this season.

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The Lions are coming off disappointing back-to-back Challenge Cup losses to Montpellier (3-13 in France with their B-Team) and Ospreys (28-38 with the A-Team at Ellis Park).

However, in the United Rugby Championship, they are in much better shape.

Following their Round Five loss (17-24) to Ulster at Ravenhill in mid-November, the Lions were on a five-match winning streak – having beaten Zebre (61-19, at Ellis Park), the Dragons (49-24, at home) and the Sharks (20-18 in Durban), with Challenge Cup victories over Perpignan (28-12 away) and Newcastle Falcons (35-13, at home) sandwiched in between.

However, it was last Saturday’s capitulation to the Welsh visitors at Ellis Park that was the most alarming of all.

(WATCH as Lions captain Marius Louw speaks to @king365ed about a demoralizing loss and an inadequate European performance last week, ahead of their Trans-Jukskei URC derby with the Bulls….)

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Lions captain Marius Louw, who received one of the three yellow cards issued to the home team, stated the obvious by saying they were “a little bit disappointed” with their performance.

“We had some good entries,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “We didn’t execute by scoring tries.

“Our discipline also wasn’t good enough.

“That’s definitely something we’ll look into,” he said of the three yellow cards and penalties at key moments.

Asked about letting an 11-point (28-17) lead slip in the final 10 minutes – with some very soft defensive moments – Louw said it was “very uncharacteristic” of the Lions.

“Yes, it was definitely a discussion point going into this week and we will be looking at that.”

The Bulls, despite a couple of disappointing losses in December (28-29 to Lyon Olympique in France and 20-26 to the Stormers in Cape Town), have displayed some impressive recent form.

Their ‘W’ column includes victories over European giants such as Saracens (27-16 at Loftus Versfeld), Bristol Bears (31-17 at Ashton Gate) and Bordeaux-Begles (46-40 in Pretoria).

“They have played good rugby over the last few weeks,” Louw told @rugby365com, adding: “We know how dangerous they are at home.

“It’s going to be a tough one.”

The Lions skipper said they need to ensure their ‘intent’ is better.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Picture credit: @LionsRugbyCo

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