Swys de Bruin. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES
Swys de Bruin. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES

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‚” said De Bruin who 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 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 was not always the most prudent.

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

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 Jantjies’s 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 performances off the bench with Vincent Tshituka and Jan-Henning Campher earning special mention.

Over the next two weeks the Lions will be involved in  the derby clashes. They are yet to win one this season, which means victory against the Sharks in Durban and against the Stormers at Ellis Park is not 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‚ the score 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‚” he said.