THE Lions showed their tenacity on European soil but Dragons boss Dai Flanagan has warned it will be a “different sport” when the South Africans fly out of the blocks at Ellis Park this afternoon.

The Rodney Parade club are huge underdogs for the United Rugby Championship encounter in Johannesburg (kick-off 3.05pm) after last weekend’s results.

The Dragons were demolished 69-14 by the Sharks, conceding five of 10 tries in the final quarter, while the Lions crossed nine times when smashing Zebre 61-19.

It was a return to winning ways for Ivan van Rooyen’s side, who started their season with a narrow home defeat to the Stormers before going on a four-game European tour.

They were edged out by a point in Edinburgh, lost by five at Benetton, beat the Scarlets in Llanelli and then left Ulster with a consolation bonus.

The Lions may not be as glamourous as the other South Africa sides – the Dragons faced Springboks legend Eben Etzebeth and is fellow World Cup winners Ox Nche, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams in Durban last week – but they are formidable.

South Wales Argus:  TOUGH: Ruan Venter on the charge for the Lions against the Dragons last season TOUGH: Ruan Venter on the charge for the Lions against the Dragons last season (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“They are big men and that first 20 minutes is about staying in the game,” said Flanagan.

“We haven't spoken about altitude because speaking about it doesn't matter, it hurts.

“They will try and keep the ball on the field early on, they will be all out attack and won't take shots at goal, they will go to the corner to get thee scoreboard ticking to 20 points as they did against Zebre.

“Watch the Sout African teams in Europe and they are completely different to when they are at home. It's like a different sport with the speed, the grounds, their athletes.

“Compare their game against Zebre to everything that they did in Europe and it's completely different.

“The amount they come off 9 and 10, how they kick, where they kick, how they drive, how they play off the top. It's all completely different.”

South Wales Argus: Dragons head coach Dai FlanaganDragons head coach Dai Flanagan (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

The Dragons’ humbling in Durban led to a change of plan – “we had to rip up the schedule, we’ve restructured” – but they stuck with a special session on Thursday.

With the squad hit by injury, Flanagan took his squad for a hit-out against the University of Cape Town before the trip to Johannesburg.

The Dragons are now charged with making a strong start at Ellis Park and then staying in the fight, something they failed to do in the disastrous final quarter gainst the Sharks.

“We go into games with themes. You can't give every player every decision to make, but you can have a theme on what you need to do to be in the game,” said Flanagan.

“We saw that for 40 or 50 minutes, then we didn't see things that were anywhere near that theme.

“A big one was not giving Sharks anything to feed on. We fed them and you can see in the last 20 minutes of the game, we gave them opportunity after opportunity.”

The Dragons cannot do that against a lively Lions side that started the weekend ranked fourth for points scored, tries and defenders beaten.