Lions left to count cost of historic win
By Jacques van der Westhuyzen
Believe it or not, Saturday's 31-20 win by the Lions in Brisbane over the Reds was just the fifth occasion a team from Johannesburg has triumphed abroad in Super rugby history.
Whether called Transvaal, Cats or Lions, the Joburg-based side has not enjoyed a good time of it in Super rugby, going back to 1996 when the competition still consisted of 12 teams.
But under current coach Eugene Eloff, the Lions have won three times on foreign soil. The two previous wins came in 2007, against the Reds and Western Force, the team Eloff's men face this weekend before returning to South Africa. The other two victories came before Eloff's time against the Blues and Crusaders.
While Eloff said yesterday his players were solely focused on beating the Western Force this weekend to make it two from four on tour, he let slip he wanted his team to go unbeaten for the remainder of the competition.
"We're going to try to win all our games ... try get more than 30 log points," said a happy Eloff.
Right now the Lions have 19 points from three wins in nine matches and have four games to go, three of those at Coca-Cola Park.
Eloff said it was good to know he had been in charge of the Lions' most successful stints overseas, but gave credit to the players for their win at the weekend, which included a bonus point for four tries, three of which were scored by winger Henno Mentz.
"We're looking to improve our overseas record this weekend, but we know it won't be easy. The Force are a tough team to beat on home soil and they're coming off a good win, too.
"We must just keep focusing and look to implement the same good tactics we used against the Reds. Top keep defending well and taking our chances will be crucial again ... we at least made the most of the chances that came our way on Saturday."
The Lions, meanwhile, will be without another key player for their final tour match in Perth this weekend.
Already missing the influential Louis Ludik at fullback, Jaque Fourie in midfield and captain Cobus Grobbelaar, the side will now also have to do without key frontrow man, Heinke van der Merwe.
Ludik and Grobbelaar have already returned home from the trip, while Fourie (eye) remains doubtful for this weekend's match. Van der Merwe is now also on his way home and he's likely to miss the remainder of the competition after picking up a serious knee injury on Saturday. He is expected to be out of action for up to four months.
In the absence of Van der Merwe, Eloff is likely to consider Lawrence Sephaka at loosehead prop and recall Gert Muller to the side at tighthead. No further changes are expected.