Lack of NZ games not a handicap for Lions - Plumtree

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Lynn McConnell     26 Jul 2017     Getty Images

That lack of exposure to New Zealand sides, who have competed in the toughest Conference in the competition, is a talking point in both countries, especially after the Stormers suffered in similar circumstances last year when thrashed by the Chiefs.

Plumtree said: "They've played us enough, they'll know what to expect from us. If you look at the last three games we've played they were certainly a lot tougher than the last three they've played but in a semifinal like this, a big game, I don't think that's going to be a massive factor at all."

The Lions enjoyed a great support base at home and they were motivated by the fact coach Johan Ackermann was leaving and they were the only South African side left in the competition, so Plumtree didn't think the lack of games against New Zealand teams would affect their game.

However, he did expect they would react to their poor showing against the Sharks when it took a 55m penalty goal to secure a win two minutes from the end of their quarterfinal.

"They were disappointed in their own game but we were pretty disappointed in ours and I guess the Chiefs were disappointed in theirs but the fact is we're all still alive and kicking in this competition. You get over those types of setbacks and move onto the next challenge.

"The Sharks played probably one of their best games of the season and having known the Sharks pretty well I know they're capable of that type of thing. The Sharks have a good reputation when it reaches quarterfinal, semifinal time so I wasn't surprised the Sharks played well and were unlucky to lose.

"It will just motivate the Lions to play better in the next one and they know they'll need to because we're probably a better side than the Sharks.

"We've just got to make sure we come to the party with our game and not worry too much about them," he said.

The start was an area the Hurricanes would be looking to improve. They had started slowly in their last three games and would need to apply the early pressure rather than having to absorb it, he said.

Reducing small errors that were costing them was another factor but Plumtree said they were not far off playing their best rugby, and they were producing it at times.

"The challenge for us is playing our best rugby for longer periods of time," he said.

Discipline had been improving in recent weeks and they were happy with not giving away a lot of penalties.

Second five-eighths Ngani Laumape was looking forward to preparing for the game in good conditions and playing in the atmosphere generated at Ellis Park. They knew they had to improve on their quarterfinal against the Brumbies.

"We weren't happy with the way we performed, we didn't have great 20 minutes but we'll take a win over a loss," he said.

Laumape said he had noticed teams were paying greater attention to him with their defensive ploys but the backline was aware of that and were communicating options they detected as a result.

The transition to playing alongside Jordie Barrett when regular partner Vince Aso was injured had been seamless because both were players of quality and Barrett brought his own characteristics to the role with his vision and good defence.

However, Aso was with the team in South Africa and is ready to be considered for the centre position again this week.

Laumape said the Lions were a physical side and they were preparing for a tough game. He wasn't surprised the Sharks had pushed the Lions so close at the weekend because it was finals rugby and everyone lifted in those circumstances.