Coach Swys de Bruin gives Lions the thumbs up

The Emirates Lions' Courtnall Skosan springs away from a challenge on his way to scoring a try during a Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on May 18 2019.
The Emirates Lions' Courtnall Skosan springs away from a challenge on his way to scoring a try during a Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on May 18 2019.
Image: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Lions coach Swys de Bruin was emboldened in his belief his team is applying the right tactics following their 38-29 Super Rugby win over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Although the victory margin denied the visitors a losing bonus point‚ the game was in the balance as the ball was fed into the scrum in the last move of the game.

The Lions drove the Highlanders pack back and from the ensuing backline move that originated just inside their own half‚ the Lions advanced up field with Courtnall Skosan scoring a try that had the crowd in raptures.

Earlier the Lions’ insistence on making play from inside their own half cost them as the Highlanders turned over possession and scored.

Although the Lions made most of the running their errors inside their own half served to keep the visitors in the game.

“Plan wise‚ the way we wanted to play it was the closest to what we want to do‚” De Bruin gave the thumbs up to their tactical approach.

To the question whether his team made it tough for themselves at times the coach was firmly in the negative.

“No. Not so whatsoever. They are a good side‚" he said.

“With 20 minutes to go I thought if we lose the game I would not be cross because I see so much effort. I’m very pleased with this result.”

The result of course must be pleasing as it keeps the Lions in the fight for conference honours especially as the Bulls‚ the Jaguares and the Stormers perhaps unexpectedly picked up log points this weekend.

De Bruin‚ however‚ agreed there were moments when the Lions made it easy for the Highlanders.

“We gave away two soft tries‚" he said.

"That brought them back in the game. We did one or two silly things. I saw a lot of effort. I know what to look for effort wise.”

With the Highlanders again proving redoubtable opponents‚ the Lions were occasionally pressed into moments of pragmatism.

In the 64th minute‚ to much relief from the stands‚ captain Malcolm Marx instructed Elton Jantjies to direct his penalty at goal‚ a tacit admission that their helter skelter approach wasn’t always the most prudent.

“To be honest I actually wanted to go for the line‚” Marx admitted afterwards.

“I looked at the touchline and there was a message from upstairs. When you play against a side like that scoreboard pressure is important as well‚” Marx conceded.

De Bruin praised his stand-in captain’s contribution.

“Malcolm is a wonderful leader and captain‚" he said.

"When Wazza (Warren Whiteley) is there it adds to the team. It is a contact sport and as good as Wazza is our team is blessed to have Malcolm and a guy like Elton (Jantjies) who organised the backline.”

With both teams scoring five tries it was in fact Jantjies’ flawless performance from the kicking tee that helped make the difference.

“Being the professional he is Elton spent so much extra time last week practicing for poles.

"It pays off. It made a difference‚” said the coach.

He was also pleased with the performance of the bench with Vincent Tshituka and Jan-Henning Campher earning special mention.

Over the next two weeks the Lions will be involved in combat in the derby clashes.

They are yet to win one this season which means victory in Durban and against the Stormers at Ellis Park isn’t up for negotiation.

“We needed this. It gives a lot of confidence‚” said De Bruin about the win over the Highlanders.

“The Sharks gave us a hammering the last time‚ I can’t remember the score but it was huge.

“Our approach will be the same as every other match. We will look at their strengths and weaknesses. We will focus on the process again‚” said De Bruin.

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