Johannesburg - It may be a lost cause already, but the Lions believe their desire for pride will carry them through against the Blues at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.
The Lions stand to claim the worst losing streak in Super rugby history if they lose, and after 11 losses on the trot, there isn’t much hope that they will suddenly get over the hurdle they have failed to surmount the entire season.
In naming his side on Thursday, coach Dick Muir said there was a bigger picture that kept the fires burning inside Lions player, even though the odds are stacked against them.
“We’re playing for pride. Pride and a bigger picture. All the players have bought into the process and while we are not getting the results at the moment, there is willingness and an eagerness among the guys to get that first win.
“At the moment we’re not even talking about how close that first win is. We’re playing a really good Blues side which has real gamebreakers and our defence will need to be spot on. We can get a result if we can put a full 80 minutes together, something we haven’t done this season.”
Muir brought back Franco van der Merwe at lock – a massive boost for the Lions pack as he has consistently been their best forward this season.
“It’s good to have Franco back,” Muir said, “We missed his workrate last week and he brings a real presence on the field and calls the lineouts as well. Nico (Luus) and George (Earl) did a good job last week and lost only one out of 15 lineouts, but it’s great to have Franco back.”
Muir added the team had worked hard on their ball retention this season.
“Against the Force we worked very hard in the first half, but in the second we didn’t control the possession like we wanted to. We made 175 tackles in the game, and they forced us to work very hard, meaning we didn’t have the legs at the end of the match.
“Our bench also didn’t make the difference we expected them to. But we’ve had a lighter week this week and given the players enough rest for the weekend.”
15. Carlos Spencer, 14. Michael Killian, 13. Deon van Rensburg, 12. Walter Venter, 11. Tonderai Chavhanga, 10. Herkie Kruger, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Derick Minnie, 7. Wikus van Heerden, 6. Cobus Grobbelaar, 5. George Earl, 4.Franco van der Merwe, 3. Gert Muller 2. Charles Emslie, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg
Substitutes: 16. Hannes Franklin, 17. Heinke van der Merwe, 18. Nico Luus, 19. Justin Wheeler, 20. Jacques Coetzee, 21. Jaco Taute, 22. Bernardo Botha
15. Isaia Toeava, 14. Joe Rokocoko, 13. Rene Ranger, 12. Benson Stanley, 11. Paul Williams, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9. Alby Mathewson, 8. Peter Saili, 7. Serge Lilo, 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Anthony Boric, 4. Kurtis Haiu, 3. John Afoa, 2. Tom McCartney, 1. Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16. Tevita Mailau, 17. Charlie Faumuina, 18. Filo Paulo, 19. Vilami Ma’afu, 20. Chris Smylie, 21. Stephen Brett / George Pisi, 22. Anthony Tuitavake