The Lions dare to dream as they head to Scotland for a European Challenge Cup quarter-final showdown with the Glasgow Warriors this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
South Africa’s last hope to clinch the European second-tier title cross swords with the surging Scots in Glasgow on Saturday night.
The three preceding last-eight encounters will see the Scarlets collide with Clermont in Llanelli on Friday, while on Saturday, Toulon tackle defending champions Lyon at home and Benetton welcome Cardiff to Treviso.
Scarlets v Clermont
Friday, 07 April – 21:00
The Scarlets continued their rich vein of form to beat Brive 19-7 last weekend while Clermont clinched a 33-26 win over the Bristol Bears.
The visitors have the muscle and mettle to eke out another victory on the road and have history on their side, having never lost to the Welsh region, so lean on them to leave with the win.
Toulon v Lyon
Saturday, 08 April – 13:30
Payback will be on Toulon’s mind in this repeat of last year’s final. Crucially, they will have home-ground advantage this time around and have looked the business throughout their unbeaten campaign.
After being eliminated from the European Champions Cup, Lyon switched their focus to defending their Challenge Cup title and managed an impressive 41-24 away win over Stade Francais last weekend. Toulon, however, are a different kettle of fish.
For one, they have a good offloading game, which helps them create line breaks. More importantly, they’ve consistently won the gain line battle, are the second-most disciplined side in the competition and should have an edge at the breakdown, all of which point to them ending Lyon’s reign.
Benetton v Cardiff
Saturday, 08 April – 16:00
Benetton have been the surprise package of the season. After finishing second in pool B, the Italian club handily beat Connacht 41-19 last weekend to reach their first-ever Challenge Cup quarter-final.
Cardiff, who qualified third in pool A, eked into the last eight thanks to Jarrod Evans’ late penalty that earned them a 28-27 win over the Sale Sharks.
Benetton have based their success on unrivalled discipline. They’ve conceded just 33 penalties, 11 less than next-best Toulon and 26 fewer than Cardiff, while they’re also the only team who haven’t conceded a card of any colour.
Add their patience on attack and ability to make metres in contact and they should continue their fairy tale season.
Glasgow Warriors v Lions
Saturday, 08 April – 21:00
Sensational as they overcame an early red card in style to rout Racing 92 51-28 at Ellis Park last weekend, the Lions will bank on that same intestinal fortitude to spring an upset in this fixture.
The heart of the Lions can never be questioned but the same cannot be said of travelling French teams. Therefore, a casual Racing aided in their own demise. In the Warriors, the Lions will come up against a team who’re just as hungry for success as they are.
On top of that, Franco Smith’s men have built an avalanche of momentum since December, winning 13 of their 14 games in all competitions. Their lone loss during this purple patch? A 35-24 defeat to the Lions away from home in February.
With their raft of Test stars, who were on Six Nations duty then, back in the fray, Glasgow thumped the Dragons 77-33 last weekend and will have too much class for the gritty Lions.