Cape Town - A New Zealand scribe has questioned the strength of the Lions following their home loss to the Blues last weekend.
The Lions started the 2018 Super Rugby competition with wins over the Sharks (26-19, home), Jaguares (47-27, home) and Bulls (49-35, away), but came unstuck against the Blues last weekend.
Against the Blues, the Lions led comfortably - 21-3 and 28-10 - at different periods of the game but conceded a late try to succumb 38-35 at Ellis Park.
The Lions, last year’s beaten finalists, have been punted as one of the competition’s favourites, but their latest defeat has drawn criticism from New Zealand.
Hamish Bidwell, who writes for New Zealand's popular Stuff.co.nz website, claims that the Lions made last year’s final largely due to a handy schedule.
“It's easy to look good when you get a saloon passage like last year's. The Lions didn't meet a single New Zealand team until the Hurricanes showed up for a semi-final, fresh from having to play the Brumbies in Canberra,” Bidwell wrote.
“Never mind that the Hurricanes finished 24 competition points ahead of the Brumbies; away they went under the absurd rules that existed at the time. That they then couldn't get up and beat the Lions was due more to the travel schedule than the quality of the victors.”
Now that they will face more Kiwi opposition, Bidwell feels the Lions could struggle.
He continued: “Beating the Lions 38-35, at ‘fortress’ Ellis Park, says or proves nothing about the Blues, but plenty about the outfit that couldn't kick on and win from 28-10 up with 25 minutes to play.
“The early coverage out of South Africa has been full of nonsense about a thrilling spectacle and what an even, unpredictable competition we have here. The truth is that if the Lions can't bowl the Blues at Ellis Park - with all the advantages that entails - then they really can't be any good.”