Vodacom Super Rugby
Mitchell plots defensive plan
Johannesburg - While their attacking game is improving every week, the Lions will have to show greater commitment on defence when they take on the Reds in Saturday's Vodacom Super Rugby clash in Johannesburg.
This was the message Lions coach John Mitchell conveyed to his team leading up to the battle against the top Australian side in the competition.
"This weekend is going to be very much about the defensive challenge, but we are excited about that because we have a plan that we've been working on and we just believe that our defence will be the catalyst to our attack on the weekend," Mitchell said.
The Reds, like the Lions, are known for their fearlessness with ball in hand and are also a team capable of making on-field decisions that are considered to be "outside the box" by most coaches.
A fine example of this was illustrated in the Queensland side's 41-8 victory over the Cheetahs last week.
In that contest flyhalf Quade Cooper opted for a kick-pass inside his own in-goal area instead of going for the safety of the touchline.
And while it may be argued that his team already had a healthy lead, very few pivots on the circuit have the guts to attempt such a move.
Cooper and halfback partner Will Genia are key figures in a squad that, again like the Lions, is not made up of the most experienced campaigners.
Mitchell said he would like his side to improve in their accuracy and with two Wallaby game breakers, Cooper and Genia, in those important positions, they cannot afford not to.
Mitchell, however, said his squad would not focus their attention on those two players, who would need assistance from their team-mates.
"I don’t think it is just up to them," he said.
"It's going to be everyone and it is certainly going to have to be three people at a time in second phase, but we do have a plan in first phase and it was executed well in training under pressure."
The Lions also made a leadership change with Doppies La Grange taking over from Franco van der Merwe as captain of the side.
Van der Merwe's form has not been up to scratch and the Lions hope he will improve when performing under less pressure.
Meanwhile, the Reds' coach, Ewen McKenzie, has rewarded his bench warmers with starts, leaving his first choice picks on the bench until the latter part of the match.
The Lions can therefore use experience gained last month against the Blues - who also loaded the bench with stars - for this encounter.
It will again boil down to big moments for the Lions who are in search of their first win at home.
"We need each other and we need to work hard for each other," Mitchell said.
"Each individual is going to have to contribute a bit more to the collective cause."