Stalwarts implore Lions to stop purring against SA teams in URC: 'It's actually sad to see'

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  • Lions legends Jaco Kriel and Julian Redelinghuys stress that the team needs to arrest its losing streak against SA teams.
  • The latter argues for neutrals it suggests that the Lions play in a very strong URC conference, but also notes that reflects poorly on the side itself.
  • Kriel says the Lions simply will have to change their mindset and take inspiration from 2015 to 2018's unbeaten streak in Super Rugby.

Two Lions legends firmly believe that the franchise can't deny it has a problem playing against fellow South African teams in the URC.

The men from Ellis Park haven't won a local derby since early December 2021 when they beat the Stormers in Cape Town in the match now considered the Capetonians' turning point, an issue brought into focus by last weekend's 8-40 drubbing at the hands of the selfsame opponents.

As a result, senior stalwart Jaco Kriel and scrum coach Julian Redelinghuys both agree that the Lions need to now use a newfound penchant for performing well overseas to cultivate a winning culture against local sides again.

Kriel and Redelinghuys know perfectly well how invincible the Lions once were on home soil, going on a 20-match unbeaten streak against the Stormers and co in Super Rugby between May 2015 and June 2018.  

For the latter, who was an integral figure in the start of that run until a neck injury forced his premature retirement at the end of 2016, the Lions' "curse" is good for neutrals but obviously not the franchise.

READ | Lions name squad for 'tough' European tour: 'We need to be more consistent'

"It's a question we really have to ask ourselves," said Redelinghuys, ahead of Friday night's meeting with Munster in Cork.

"It's been a year since we've beaten a SA team in the URC. Unemotionally, it's a nice thing for neutrals because, especially if you look at where our local teams finished in the tournament last year, it shows you're playing against very good teams.

"Yes, we play in a tough conference or shield. But the reality is that we're part of it and have shown at times that we belong. So, to me, I think it's a mental thing."

A trip to Musgrave Park grants the Lions the opportunity to play away from that scrutiny, but places added pressure because the clash is not only about getting back on track overall against improving opponents, it's also about channeling it to have confidence against their countrymen again too.

"What we find is that when we play SA teams everyone's called by their name and against the foreign teams its the lock or six or ten. Familiarity is sometimes a challenge," said Redelinghuys.

"That's why we need to win this game so that we can build a new belief system for later." 

Kriel, in turn, warns that the Lions can't keep using touring assignments to deflect attention away from a patchy home record.

"We've been trying to figure it out. We spoke about something related the other day. On tour there are no external distractions. I don't want to call families and wives distractions, but it's true that the guys only have themselves to rely on," said the former Springbok flanker. 

"It's about bonding on tour. There's nothing much else to do than get to know the guy next to you.

"That said, you can only use that excuse for so long because this is not the first tour this group has been on, so we have to start changing our fortunes in our home fixtures in South Africa." 

To him, it's not a technical and tactical issue, simply a mental one.

"There's no doubt we've struggled against SA sides over the past few years and it's actually sad to see because it wasn't the case not too long ago. It's a mental shift that we have to make, we just have to believe," said Kriel. 

"If you want to make the playoffs, your first priority is to make sure you win your home games. But we haven't been doing that, so now away games are now so much more important. Munster are on a high recently, it will be really challenging."

Kick-off is at 21:35.

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