Ruthless Lions close in on SA Conference title

Elton Jantjies of the Lions and team mates celebrate during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions at DHL Newlands Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Elton Jantjies of the Lions and team mates celebrate during the Super Rugby match between DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions at DHL Newlands Stadium on May 26, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Lions have one hand on the South African Conference title‚ which will secure a home play-off place‚ after beating the Stormers 26-23 at Newlands on Saturday.

Victory moved the Lions to 40 points on the standings and put them six points clear of the Jaguares in the race for top spot.

While there was an element of fortune in Saturday’s win at Newlands thanks to two yellow cards and a red card against the home team‚ the Lions turned the screw when they had to. They showed the ruthlessness of team at the top of the standings rather than at the bottom.

“We are relieved and pleased because Newlands is a tough place to win no matter what the circumstances are‚” Lions coach Swys de Bruin said.

“Our discipline was very good. At halftime I calmed the guys down and I told them‚ if we win the discipline battle‚ we will win the game.

“The pressure was so high. They came at us with everything and it was a mammoth effort from them to fight so gallantly with 13 and 14 men at stages.

“I thought they were going to sneak it at the end there with 14 guys‚ which would have been bad for us. I’m glad we saw it through and feel for them because they fought so hard.”

The Lions might have expressed sympathy after the match but there was no soft side during the contest as captain Franco Mostert expertly made his team take full advantage of the Stormers’ misfortune.

After spending most of the day attempting to play expansive rugby in slippery conditions‚ the Lions recognized a change was needed when the Stormers were numbers short.

Two mauling tries for replacement hooker Corne Fourie put the visitors in front and demonstrated that their match awareness and execution is a key weapon.

“When they had those cards we knew that we could go to the basics like mauling‚ which is what we did‚” Mostert said.

“We decided to keep the ball up front and then the space would come out wide later. The scrums didn’t go our way on the day but our mauling worked well.”

De Bruin was happy with another four tries‚ which took the Lions to 68 tries in 2018 – the most in the competition.

“It doesn't matter how we score them‚ it’s a team thing. We are always trying to find the opposition’s weak point‚” De Bruin said.

“We are blessed to be the tournament’s leading scorers with 68 tries and we are by far the leaders in the defenders beaten category. Those are the two stats we set at goal and we are getting there.”

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