JOHANNESBURG - Finally the Lions are starting to click under new coach Swys de Bruin - and he couldn’t be happier.
De Bruin’s team registered their second straight win when they beat Griquas 34-17 in Kimberley on Friday, after a run of four defeats, to climb to fourth on the Currie Cup points table.
It followed a win against the Pumas last weekend and with four matches remaining before the play-offs are contested, the Lions have moved from the bottom of the points table to be in the semi-finals places.
“I’m very satisfied with the performance and especially the effort put in by the players,” said De Bruin when reflecting on the trip to Kimberley. “I thought we were especially good in the first half and then also when we were down with the yellow cards.
"We also scored a nice try at the end to bag the bonus point. Getting the five points in Kimberley is always very satisfying. We’ve moved up from bottom to be fourth and are back in the mix. Most important though is the guys are starting to play like a team again.”
Indeed, the Lions looked a class act in the first half as they raced into a 24-0 lead at the break and while Griquas hit back with two tries of their own in the second spell a late Rohan Janse van Rensburg try for the visitors put the Lions out of reach.
What makes the result more remarkable is the fact De Bruin’s men had to play for 60 minutes with 14 men as Harold Vorster and Kwagga Smith were both sin-binned during the game, albeit controversially by referee Egon Seconds.
Anyway, the Lions are back on course after a shaky start under the new-look coaching team, led by De Bruin, but there is precious little separating them and the teams below them on the log. And, the Lions have a rather challenging run-in before the four semi-finalists are confirmed.
The Sharks remain the runaway leaders with 34 points and they’re followed by the Cheetahs on 25 and then Western Province on 22. The Lions are fourth with 20 points while the Pumas and Blue Bulls have 18 points and Griquas 16.
The Bulls, who the Lions host on Saturday, also have a game in hand and with new coach John Mitchell returning to his old stomping ground, expect a mighty big effort by the men from Pretoria on Saturday evening.
That match is followed by a trip to Durban for a date with the Sharks before De Bruin’s men host Western Province; a stiff ask over the next three weekends.
The only “easy” clash is the last round-robin game against the Cheetahs on October 14, but also only because the Free State side is severely weakened by their “A” team playing in the Pro 14.
The Lions are this week likely to welcome back experienced lock Andries Ferreira who missed the trip to Kimberley following the birth of his second child.