Lions preparing for big forward battle against Bulls in URC opener

The Lions are gearing up for a typically big forward battle when they host their closest rivals the Bulls in their United Rugby Championship (URC) opener at Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 4.05pm).

The Lions named their first squad of the season on Thursday, featuring a pack of players who all played at various stages last season, while their front row of Sti Sithole, PJ Botha and Ruan Dreyer is a pretty settled one that has played together a lot.

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“We actually have a big squad to train with now which we didn’t have last season and we have brought in some guys as well, although we also lost a couple of guys after last season,” explained Lions scrum coach Julian Redelinghuys.

“But we are happy with the guys we have and we had a really good preseason. The guys got to bond a bit and we got some good training time into them, so now we are ready for the start of the season.”

Tough battle

Redelinghuys knows that the Bulls will produce a tough battle for the Lions front row, but he believes they have turned themselves into a formidable force at the set piece in recent times and that they will be looking to get the upper hand over the visitors on Saturday

“In the past we have struggled against SA packs in general, so it’s all about getting their confidence up and if they (forwards) can do their job the rest will look after itself,” said Redelinghuys.

“The set piece is something that we pride ourselves on. If you look at any championship team over the years you have to have a good set piece.

“Coach Swys always used to say that we (forwards) move the piano and the backs will play the piano. So the set piece is definitely a big focus point for us and we want to get off to a good start.”

Last season the Lions struggled against the Bulls in the set piece, which led to them losing twice against their cross-Jukskei rivals, so it is very important for them to make sure their set piece is solid this time round.