Lions fans and new coach Swys de Bruin will be hoping the team has turned the corner after pipping neighbours, the Pumas, in a Currie Cup match played at Ellis Park on Saturday.
De Bruin’s men ended a four-match winless run with a narrow 29-28 victory, to ease the pressure on the players and the coach who took over from Johan Ackermann when Super Rugby came to an end with defeat in the final against the Crusaders a few weeks ago.
For many of the Lions youngsters, who’re filling in for their more seasoned team-mates who’re either involved with the Springboks, injured, suspended or playing club rugby in Japan, Saturday’s victory would have been their first as a senior at Currie Cup level.
Leading the way against the Pumas was flyhalf Ashlon Davids who delivered a strong performance at No 10. The 24-year-old varied his game well, he attacked the gainline with confidence and his kicking out of hand was top-notch. And it was Davids’ cross-field kick – reminiscent of some of the kicks Elton Jantjies produced in Super Rugby – in the 37th minute which found Madosh Tambwe out on the wing that underlined his huge potential. He, like many of the current crop of rookies, has a bright future ahead of him in Lions colours.
While the win wasn’t without concerns – they let the Pumas score a number of soft tries which kept them in the game – the Lions looked better with ball in hand, while their set-pieces were also impressive. They will however have to do without tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer for the next few weeks as he’ll join up with the Springboks.
The five tries to four win wasn’t enough to see the Lions move off the foot of the seven-team points table; they have 15 points, but they’ll be encouraged by the fact the next four teams ahead of them in the standings are only just better off.
The Bulls (third) have 18 points, Western Province (fourth) have 17 points, albeit with a game in hand, the Pumas (fifth) have 17, too, and the Griquas (sixth) have 16. The Sharks (first) with 29 points and the Cheetahs (second) with 25 are the runaway leaders.
The Lions will hope to bag another four or five points this weekend when they travel to Kimberley for a date with Griquas on Friday – the only team they managed to beat in the first round (48-43). But the men from the Northern Cape will be no pushovers; they came within two points (44-42) of beating the Bulls at Loftus last Friday and have already registered wins against Western Province and the Cheetahs this season.
It’s a game the Lions – and De Bruin – will feel they must win if they’re to have any chance of making the top four and the playoffs this season as after this weekend they face far tougher opposition in the Bulls (home), Sharks (away), Western Province (home) and Cheetahs (home).
Good news for the Lions is versatile forward Kwagga Smith will be available again from this weekend after serving a four-week ban, which he was handed for a dangerous tackle in the Super Rugby final.