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Lions' confidence riding high at Ellis Park

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Friday, July 29, 2016    Getty Images

It is the first time the Lions have reached the play-offs in Super Rugby but that hasn't lowered their belief.

Wing Ruan Combrinck told SuperSport.co.za that the quarter-final win over the Crusaders had been a big boost for the side.

"It was a massive win for us, not that any other game wasn't," he said.

"I must say you gain a lot of confidence when you do well against a New Zealand side, because New Zealand is such a smart rugby nation.

"Physically they will always front up, and mentally they always have the edge over every other country and it is no secret why the All Blacks have done so well.

"They are obviously doing something right and to do well against a team that is littered with All Blacks, you do gain a lot of confidence out of that and take that into the next week," he said.

While the Highlanders won the round-robin game between the two sides convincingly in Dunedin that meant little now, he said.

It was the last game of the Lions' New Zealand tour and Combrinck wondered if they had one foot on the plane for their return home.

"The whole game was just flat. I can't tap into what it was, but I suppose it is like any job when you rock up the one day and nobody is really there. Everyone is there but nobody is really there.

"That was the case and obviously gaining confidence from the quarter-final, being at home and knowing that this is a must win will take a lot of that away that happened against the Highlanders there," he said.

The Highlanders had out-smarted them last time and out-worked and out-played them, he added.

But at that stage of the season you could lose and play again next week, this time around it is the end of the competition if you lose.

"There is added pressure to this game and that makes it so much more exciting and so much more that you can't slip up. Like I said at the Boks, you've got to catch a cannon ball for your country and this feels almost the same," he said.

It was a case of the Lions being like Olympic and world sprint champion Usain Bolt.

"He runs against the record and everyone else runs against Usain Bolt. We're running our own race here. We will not worry too much about individuals in other teams.

"I believe there is enough confidence in our team to do well.

"The Highlanders have an awesome team, not just the backs, but you mention the names and they are there. With confidence and with so much x-factor in you and with everyone having played two, three years with each other, you tend to focus on what you have to do and all your processes.

"The most amazing thing about the Highlanders in the last two, three years is that they've never given up. Last year they had to play in Sydney for the semi, and then had to play in Wellington in the final and they showed everything is possible.

"They won away from home against the defending champions, the Waratahs, so they have a massive never-say-die attitude and almost a desperate game plan where losing is not an option.

"You can learn a lot from that and I'm sure we've figured out our own way of doing things this year, and we learnt a lot from them, that desperation to win. Because this is why you play rugby," Combrinck said.