There are few fixtures with such thrilling expectation as Vodacom Super Rugby derby matches between the Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions, which is exactly what we can expect when the two teams meet this Saturday.
The Emirates Lions, as 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby finalists, continue to enjoy success in the competition this year after proving their worth last year.
Besides a 36-24 loss to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires in Round Three, the Lions have the same record as the Cell C Sharks, whose only loss came – also away from home – against the Reds in Brisbane in Round One.
Just two log points separate the great rivals and Saturday’s clash takes on significance given the log positions and jostling for top dog status.
Head coach Robert du Preez admits that although they face a tough challenge against the Lions, particularly in Johannesburg, the team’s focus is on itself, not the opposition. Both teams are coming off important wins – the Lions, a 42-19 defeat of the Kings and our 38-30 victory over the Cheetahs.
“We want to maintain the momentum from last week and improve this week,” he points out. “It’s a challenge that we’re really looking forward to.”
After conceding three tries to the Cheetahs, there was plenty of emphasis on defence at training this weekend and du Preez was not happy with letting in those tries.
“That’s very disappointing and the Lions are just as dangerous. We’re disappointed with those soft tries we’ve given away, so there’s going to be a massive effort required on defence this weekend.”
His thoughts on the Lions are straight-forward and to the point: “They’re a good team, they like to play with the ball in hand and they score a lot of tries.”
Containing the dangerous Lions is something captain Tera Mtembu is well-aware that they need to do in order to give his team the best chance of success.
“They were the best South African team last year,” he explains, “but they can’t score tries without ball possession, so if we keep the ball, fix our system errors of last week, it should be a good game.”
Besides being a ‘good game’ he also expects this to be a fiery contest, as most derbies are.
“Playing any South African derby is always very physical, one team always wants to physically dominate the other, to get that physical edge, so it’s going to be a big game.
“But our focus is on ourselves, we know what we need to do. They are beatable and if we stick to what we’ve been doing in training this week, it could be a good result for us