JOHANNESBURG - It always looked like a step too far and so it proved on Saturday as the Golden Lions bowed out of the Currie Cup.
Swys de Bruin’s team were comprehensively beaten by Western Province at Newlands to end a trying competition. The Lions’ involvement in the Super Rugby play-offs in August meant a much-weakened side had to play in the early rounds of the Currie Cup and then later on the side was shorn of several first choice players who were either involved with the Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign or playing club rugby in Japan.
To make the semi-finals was, in the end, a good effort by De Bruin’s men. But at Newlands the Lions were over-powered by a more physical team whose defence stood tall yet again, as they went on to win 19-5 in a fairly scrappy and forgettable game. Also, the home team took their chances and converted them into points, something the Lions failed to do.
“We were beaten by the hungrier team,” said De Bruin afterwards. “They’re a quality side and all credit to them. They took their chances and Robert du Preez kicked his goals. They played well and were excellent in defence. We made too many mistakes and didn’t convert our opportunities and that’s disappointing.”
De Bruin, though, didn’t seem too perturbed by the loss, preferring to look ahead to Super Rugby, something that excites him after he was handed the top job following the departure of Johan Ackermann to England earlier this season.
“We didn’t have any pre-season going into the Currie Cup (because of the overlap with Super Rugby), so to have a proper pre-season now is great news,” said the Lions coach.
“We’ll get together again on November 15 for pre-season so the guys will have some nice time off now. Then the Bok players and the guys who’re playing in Japan will join around mid-January. We’ve got a lot to work on, but we’ve at least got some time now.”
De Bruin said he was pleased with the depth the Lions were able to build over the course of the Currie Cup campaign. “The youngsters have come through nicely, a whole lot of them. In fact we used 11 Under-21 players during the campaign, so that’s pleasing; it was one of our goals going into the competition, to blood these guys,” he said.
“So, I’m very proud of what we were able to achieve, to make the semis. But losing out is part of rugby ... someone wins, someone loses, it’s sport and that’s why it’s so fantastic. I’ve been in this game for 34 years and that’s what happens. I prefer to look forward now.”
Indeed, the Lions may have fallen short on Saturday, but De Bruin will know he has a strong group of players to pick from for next year’s Super Rugby campaign. Besides all the Bok stars and returning players who’re injured, he will be pleased about the performances of several young men over the last two months. Here one thinks of Marvin Orie, Hacjivah Dayimani, Len Massyn, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Ashlon Davids and Aphiwe Dyantyi.