Odds stacked in Lions' favour
Johannesburg - With the first leg of the Super Rugby promotion-relegation match under their belts, the Lions go into the second and deciding game, against the Southern Kings, as favourites at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Johannesburg side’s victory last weekend was a far cry from a walkover and, taken at face value, a battle of attrition could be expected this weekend.
The Lions, though, will not only be buoyed by the fact they beat the Eastern Cape franchise away but also by the overwhelming support of a sold-out, home game.
"We’ve been through a tough year but, for us as players, to get a full house mean something.
"It means that we’ve done something right," said Lions captain JC Janse van Rensburg.
"At the beginning of the year, we said we wanted to play a brand of rugby the fans would enjoy and this is a brilliant testimony that the fans are enjoying how we play."
The odds were swinging further in favour of the Lions after the Kings suffered a number of setbacks this week.
The revelation that director of rugby Allan Solomons would be jumping ship after the match, to take up a position at Edinburgh in Scotland, did little to reassure their fans about the Kings chances of retaining their place in Super Rugby.
To add fuel to the fire, reports emerged that four star Kings players had already signed contracts with the Bulls.
While these reports could turn out to be pure speculation, it would be damaging to the Kings’ confidence ahead of a high-pressure match in front of a hostile crowd.
The Kings had also lost the services of injured flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, while Lions pivot Elton Jantjies had made a promising return for his side after a stint with the Stormers during the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Jantjies had a lacklustre season in the Mother City, but his homecoming for the Lions last week was encouraging. He showed glimpses of the player who made his debut for the Springboks in September last year.
The Lions captain said Jantjies appeared to have regained his confidence and looked happy to be back in Johannesburg.
"Elton is a special player and we know how to handle him.
"He is a great team guy -- in the morning he gets here with a big smile so it looks like he is really enjoying it here and enjoying our style of rugby," Janse van Rensburg.
"Rugby is all about confidence and as soon as he took that first kick on Saturday, I just knew Elton was back."
A loss for the Kings would be the end of their fairytale, while it would put an end to the Lions’ year-long nightmare.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann said the match result would be a travesty either way, as neither team would take pleasure from the situation facing the losing side.
"Whoever is on the losing side will have to start again," Ackermann said.
"They will have to try and get a young team going until they get the opportunity to get back in Super Rugby.
"It will be tough for either union."