Down and out: A dejected Warren Whiteley leaves the field with a knee injury at Ellis Park on Saturday. Picture: GAVIN BARKER/BACKPAGEPIX
Down and out: A dejected Warren Whiteley leaves the field with a knee injury at Ellis Park on Saturday. Picture: GAVIN BARKER/BACKPAGEPIX

The Lions are counting the cost of their shock defeat to the Blues at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Captain Warren Whiteley left the field injured in the first half and will be ruled out of action for the next few weeks with knee ligament damage.

It is a blow for the Lions as well as the player who is hoping to reestablish himself after recovering from a crippling groin injury in 2017.

"It seems like a grade-one PCL (posterior cruciate ligament)‚ which is not too serious. Perhaps only a couple of weeks [unavailable]‚" said Whiteley, who appeared more downcast about the dramatic 38-35 defeat than the injury. "I’m walking fine and there is no pain. It just feels a bit unstable. The doc said my PCL felt a bit loose."

Coach Swys de Bruin was most displeased in the aftermath of the shock defeat. When asked whether his side was perhaps complacent after three wins at the start of the competition, De Bruin said: "Definitely. We are human. We will turn this around into a positive."

Whiteley was brutal in his assessment of what transpired after the Lions led 28-10 after 54 minutes. "I can’t remember when last we were that poor in the last 20 minutes.

"It is disappointing because our strength is the last 20 minutes. That’s when they took the game away from us.

"We would have learnt a lot of lessons from this‚" said Whiteley. "Perhaps we felt a bit of pressure.

"It got a bit frantic and I thought we got a bit loose. We started giving too much possession away and we weren’t clinical enough.

"I thought we weren’t direct enough. We didn’t stick to our strengths. If we kept it a bit tighter we would have got a lot more reward," he said.

It was surprising that the Lions played into the Blues’ hands‚ especially after they so masterfully avoided the same trap against the Bulls at Loftus a week earlier.

Without Whiteley, the Lions lacked composure as the Blues cranked up the heat.

"Warren is one of a kind and a fantastic leader, but the other guys must stand up‚" said De Bruin. "The spine of our team is made up of Springboks. There are other leaders in the team. It is no excuse. When you score five tries you should win the game‚" he said.

"We battled all day to protect our ball. They are a very dangerous side when it comes to turnovers. They were quick at the breakdown. In the end it was a game of margins but we’ve got to close games down."

De Bruin also reflected on the bigger picture.

"We had a chance to go top of the log and ahead of everyone. We didn’t. The Crusaders lost. Big teams lost. The race is on."

It was a rare victory for the Blues in SA, being their second since 2012 on this side of the Indian Ocean, with their only other success coming against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth in 2016.

What made the performance even more remarkable was that the Blues lost a day in their preparation after their plane was grounded in Auckland due to technical reasons.

"It is what it is‚" said coach Tana Umaga about the resolve his team was required to show this week.

TimesLIVE

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