After a difficult past two weeks the Lions are facing a tough January on the road in Europe as they play two URC matches and two Challenge Cup games over the next four weeks.
They face a huge first test against an inform Munster team in the URC in Ireland on Friday night, before they take on Stade Francais and the Dragons in France and Wales in the Challenge Cup, and then finish the month against Connacht in the URC in Ireland.
The team will somehow have to pick themselves up from two disappointing performances against the Sharks and Stormers over the last two weekends in December and will have to prepare themselves for a difficult European run.
‘Tough to lose’
“You don’t like to lose, and it’s tough to lose, I’m not going to lie, but it’s just that lack of consistency. If you manage to get back into the game and feel you are one try away from getting back in it, you then let it slip,” explained Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen about his team’s struggles over the past two games.
“As you saw with both (SA derby) results, it’s obviously mentally tougher than anyone expected two weeks in a row over this festive time in away games.
“But we’re traveling Monday morning on a four-week tour so we’ve got to get used to playing away. I think probably the toughest fixtures are to play away in South Africa currently.”
Although the Sharks and Stormers results came as a blow to the Lions, they can take a lot of confidence out of their first away tour in Europe earlier in the URC season when they clinched a three match winning tour.
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The Lions beat Ospreys, Cardiff and Edinburgh in Wales and Scotland over a three week period earlier in the competition and they will need to put in a similar effort if they are to make a success of their four week away tour in January.
“There’s still a lot of belief in this group, not just playing away but at home. We know we’ve got to get more consistent in attack and defence especially,” said Van Rooyen.
“We spend a lot of time together in Joburg but it’s different, so for us as a group going away for four weeks, it’s a great opportunity for us to get consistency in our preparation and roll with the punches. I’m excited to tour.
“As rugby players, we’re extremely competitive and extremely proud so every loss is hurting, but can we turn it around? We can, and there’s nothing better than a tour to pull together and collectively get that result.”
Lions’ January fixtures
URC match v Munster in Munster on Friday, January 6
Challenge Cup match v Stade Francais in Paris on Saturday, January 14
Challenge Cup match v Dragons in Newport on Sunday, January 22
URC match v Connacht in Connacht on Saturday, January 28