Poor decision-making at crucial times cost theLions a chance of knocking over the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday, leaving coach Johan Ackermann and Co again wondering, “What might have been?”
It was the same individual errors that cost the Lions against the Crusaders the week before and on Saturday the game turned in favour of the Sharks after the Lions tried to run out of their own 22m area.
A turnover by centre sensation Sibusiso Sithole allowed Lwazi Mvovo to score a 67th-minute converted try and seal what up to that stage had been a tight contest.
Both sides had, up until then, battled to create opportunities, with the boots of Fred Zeilinga and Frans Steyn, for the Sharks, and Marnitz Boshoff, for the Lions, dominating the scoreboard, and at 15-12 to the visitors it was anyone’s game.
That was until Mvovo – a star since moving to fullback for the Sharks – weaved his magic.
“It was a bad decision to try to run out of our half, there was nothing on, but we got turned over and Lwazi scored a brilliant try,” lamented Ackermann afterwards. “We didn’t need to panic.”
Ackermann also questioned the two penalties awarded against his players soon after half-time, for sealing off at the breakdown, which Steyn converted from 50 metres out.
“It was 6-6 at the break and then Steyn lands those penalties. I think we were unlucky and I don’t know why we were penalised.
“I’m really disappointed because I don’t think the score is a true reflection of the game. The Sharks didn’t dominate us so much that they should have won by 13 points.
“The message though is simple – we shouldn’t again be saying ‘what could have been’. And it’s going to stay like that unless we learn to make the right decisions.”
Lions skipper Warren Whiteley agreed with Ackermann that poor decision-making rather than inexperience at this level has cost the Lions in the last two weeks (they also lost to the Crusaders).
“We’ve come back from 20 points down to win this year, so it’s not that we’re not capable of making the right decisions. But in the last two weeks we’ve let ourselves down.”
The defeat for the Lions, their fourth in eight games, has seen them slip to ninth in the standings, while the Sharks, with six wins from seven, are still top of the table.
Director of rugby Jake White was delighted with the win.
“Losing 10 (Zeilinga with a hamstring strain) so early on, and having Jannie du Plessis sin-binned, didn’t help, but I was really happy about how we stuck at it.
“We’re not seeing a lot of away wins this year, and you’ve got to work for the full 80 minutes, and we did that.
“We played enough rugby, and dominated the territory and possession, to be better off than 6-6 at half-time, but the seniors and the experience of the side pulled us through.”
This weekend, the Lions travel to Cape Town for their final home match before going on tour, while the Sharks are back in Durban for a date with the Cheetahs.
In Bloemfontein, poor defending again cost the Cheetahs as the Crusaders ran in a few soft tries late in the game to bag all five points on offer – and move into the top half of the table.
And the Bulls’ big error-count in Dunedin cost them a chance of beating the Highlanders. They now face a must-win game against the Waratahs if they are to prevent a big drop down the standings.
Lions 12 Sharks 25; Cheetahs 31 Crusaders 52; Force 28 Waratahs 16; Chiefs 22 Rebels 16; Reds 20 Brumbies 23; Highlanders 27 Bulls 20
Friday: Hurricanes v Blues, Rebels v Force
Saturday: Chiefs v Crusaders; Wara-tahs v Bulls; Sharks v Cheetahs; Stormers v Lions - The Star