Johannesburg – The Golden Lions' comprehensive 41-13 defeat of the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday could prove costly after star flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff left the field with an arm injury.
“We are a bit concerned but we don't want to jump to conclusions before he's had his scans,” Lions coach Johan Ackermann said after the match.
“Jaco van der Walt (replacement) is a talented player but obviously Marnitz is also a match winner and it will be a big loss if he is out.”
The coach was, nevertheless, a satisfied man as his team ran in four tries for the crucial full complement of points at home, despite leaving it late to score the fourth try with Warwick Tecklenburg going over the line in the 80th minute.
Before the five-pointer, the Lions held a 36-13 lead over the Light Blues, yet Ackermann would have been excused feeling slightly empty-handed without the bonus point.
“We started to send the message to Warren Whiteley (Lions captain) with only nine minutes to go, before that we were quite happy with the win to kick-start the season,” Ackermann said.
“When the Bulls started that second half so well, suddenly it was not about bonus points but about winning the game.
“At that point, it was really an arm wrestle, and once we got the try that took the game away from them, then it only started.”
The match highlighted the contrast in styles with the Lions playing with unconstrained freedom while doing the basics right.
For Bulls coach Frans Ludeke it must have felt like a case of deja vu as his charges struggled with the same problems which characterised their Super Rugby campaign.
The Lions once again demonstrated why they were so highly rated in the scrums where, Ludeke admitted, they had the Bulls' number.
“It is definitely not the result we wanted in a season opener and it is really disappointing. We were down 23-3 at half-time and gave them some soft tries. We coughed the ball up and that intercept try was costly,” Ludeke said.
“We came back in the second half and, at 23-13, we were almost back into it but we again lost the ball in contact situations.
“The main thing is our inability to keep the ball and build pressure but we gave them a lot of opportunities from broken field – that is their game, so we were playing into their hands.”
While the Lions attacked the gaps, the Bulls persistently went for contact and it was no wonder they lost the ball in contact.
The Bulls were also outplayed at the rucks despite the return of captain and breakdown exponent Deon Stegmann.
Ludeke said he was still proud of his charges for the way they bounced back from a 20-point deficit in the first half, but chasing the score made it difficult to truly get back into the game.
“That was a mountain to climb and I thought the team showed character,” he said.
“The basics cost us tonight, our scrum wasn't good enough tonight, we gave away penalties there and we didn't keep the ball in contact situations. Those are things you can fix.”
Whiteley said he was proud of his team-mates for their attitude and the foundation they lay from the start of the match.
“I was happy with the intensity that we played with, especially the way we started the first half. We took the points that were on offer but credit must go to the Bulls in that second half. They put us under a lot of pressure especially in the beginning,” he said.
“We knew if we just upped the intensity ... and the coach made some substitutions and those guys made a difference in the last 20
minutes and we got that bonus point which is very important in any competition.” – Sapa