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Champions Cup: five things to know about Bulls-Lyon

For 16 months, the Bulls and the LOU have regularly crossed paths.

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Champions Cup: five things to know about Bulls-Lyon

For 16 months, the Bulls and the LOU have regularly crossed paths. The confrontation began in December 2022 with a thrilling victory for the South Africans in Pretoria, 42 to 36. Brilliant revenge for the Gones in the return match, 31 to 7, in January 2023. And, last December, new success, narrowing this times, Lyonnais, 29 to 28. Note that during these three duels, they scored a total of 14 tries (almost 5 on average per match). Lyon is also the team that beat the most defenders per match in the group stage (27.3 on average). Time for the fourth beat of the waltz this Saturday...

Lyon has its head elsewhere. 12th in the Top 14, with only 4 points ahead of Montpellier, current play-off player, LOU's priority is to save its place in the elite. And, why not, achieve a thunderous end to the regular season to reach the final phase (7 points separate them from 6th place currently occupied by UBB)? So, to challenge the Bulls in Pretoria, well placed in 3rd place in the United Rugby Championship (12 wins, 5 losses, in all competitions this season), Lyon manager Fabien Gengenbacher made no secret of his preference by largely rotate its workforce. Only two victorious UBB starters last week retain their place in the starting XV (Georgian third row Beka Saginadze and center Alfred Parisien). For a major replacement with, for example, the tenure in the second row of Loann Goujon, who had not been since the first two days of Top 14 last August, or the return from injury of pillar Damba Bamba. We will therefore have to close ranks against the typical Bulls team, with its two world champions Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie Le Roux, or the former fly-half of Racing 92 and Montpellier, Johan Goosen. “This meeting comes in the middle of the championship where we still have important deadlines. But we prepared for this round of 16 with a lot of ambition, moderates Gengenbacher. We have the opportunity to do something that has never been done, qualify for a historic Champions Cup quarter-final for the club.

Impossible mission ? No French club has established itself in South Africa since the integration of provinces from the southern hemisphere two years ago. And, this season, LOU is struggling on the road: twelve away matches (Top 14 and Champions Cup) and… twelve defeats! Signing your first success at Loftus Versfeld, more than 10,000 kilometers from Gerland, would therefore constitute a real achievement. “It’s a huge challenge but the group wants to give 100% and try to write its story,” assures Beka Saginadze.

The Italian winger of Australian origin impressed during the Six Nations Tournament, regularly cited in the competition's standard team. It must be said that, since the start of the season, between the World Cup and the Tournament, he has scored four tries in nine matches played... with Italy. A success that eludes him with Lyon: Monty Ioane, flagship recruit, has still not scored. A seven-time starter (including only 3 times in the Top 14), the 29-year-old has not yet convinced the Rhone staff to fully trust him. He has the opportunity to show himself in Pretoria.

If LOU manages to qualify for the first quarter-finals of the Champions Cup this Saturday, they will face either Northampton (in England) or the Irish province of Munster (at Matmut Stadium) next weekend. But, in the event of elimination, no vacation on the program. The long plane journey will take place during the night from Sunday to Monday. And, from Tuesday, return to training to prepare for the crucial trip with a view to remaining in Perpignan on Saturday April 20 (5 p.m.) as part of the 21st day of the Top 14

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