With the Lions facing a pivotal four week European tour over January that could define their entire season, the question has to be asked: Can they find the magic on tour again?
The tight nature of the United Rugby Championship (URC) log was laid bare for the Johannesburg based team over the past two weekends, after the Lions dropped a whopping six places on the URC log.
At the start of December the Lions clinched a 32-15 bonus point win over the Scarlets at home, which saw them into fifth place on the log, having won five and lost three of their games in the competition.
A two week spell then saw the Lions compete in the Challenge Cup competition, where they went unbeaten, drawing against the Dragons and beating Stade Francais.
To end the year the Lions then faced two tough local derbies against the Sharks in Durban and the Stormers in Cape Town, and unfortunately produced two poor performances to go down heavily 37-10 and 40-8 respectively.
Suddenly, having started the last month of 2022 in fifth spot on the log, the Lions then entered 2023 in 11th place on the log and out of the play-off spots.
They now face a massive January period with four away games, two in the URC and two in the Challenge Cup, and if things don’t go well the Lions could find their chances in both competitions left in tatters.
However, the Lions’ first away tour of the season at the end of September and start of October last year was a resounding success, so they know that they can produce the goods away from home and they will need to draw inspiration from that three game run.
On that occasion the Lions clinched wins over Ospreys and Cardiff in Wales, and then stunned an international laden Edinburgh team in Scotland, to become the first SA side to claim an unbeaten tour in the URC.
This time around the Lions face a huge challenge first up against a resurgent and in form Munster side who, after a poor start to the season, have found their feet and have won three of their last four URC games, with their only loss in that run a tight one-point defeat against table toppers Leinster.
They also picked up what must have been a big confidence building one-point away win over Irish rivals Ulster in their last match and they will go into the Lions game with plenty of confidence, and it will take a monster effort from the visitors to try and upset the home side.
Following the Munster game the Lions face a tough Challenge Cup clash against Stade Francais in Paris, take on the Dragons in Newport (also in the Challenge Cup), before closing out their European tour with a URC match against Connacht in Galway.
It is not going to be easy for the South African team, but they need to try and find the magic from their first tour and pick up as many wins as they can.
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