Five lessons from Lions’ win over table topping Bulls
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JOHANNESBURG – After coming desperately close in their first three matches in the Rainbow Cup South Africa, the Lions finally secured a victory. It was a narrow 34-33 win over the Bulls, but will still do the team a world of good confidence-wise.
Here we look at five highlights that we learnt from the encounter on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park.
Give that scrum a Bells
Sjoe! How good was that Lions scrum on the weekend?
Sure, you could argue that some of the penalties at the set-piece went against the Bulls, but there can be no doubt that Sti Sithole and Caru Sadie had the better of their opponents in general. Sithole admitted last week that the scrum did not have the most auspicious of starts against the Bulls in round one and also battled against the Sharks in Durban, but there can be no arguing that the last two weeks, they have been the superior duo.
In their last game they outscrummed an all-Springbok frontrow in Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe, and this past weekend they repeated the feat by doing the same gainst Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka. Lions scrum coach Julian Redelinghuys deserves just as much praise in turning it around.
Dominating the scrum as they did, went a long way to securing their first victory of the Rainbow Cup.
Burger on the menu
In his second start as the Lions captain, Burger Odendaal had an exceptional outing on Saturday. The skipper bashed his way through the Bulls defence with vigour, and put in an exhausting 80 minute effort. It was arguably his best outing in the famous white and red hooped jersey.
Many will still ponder his decision-making, especially in the second half when he called on the forwards to scrum down deep in the Bulls half. They repeatedly won penalties, but too far from the tryline to force the referee to dig in his pocket to whip out the yellow card, or award a penalty try, but you know what, in the end he led the team to victory, so no harm, no foul.
He led from the front, and that is all you can ask from your captain.
No need to panic
The Bulls lost, but there really is no reason to believe that it will become the norm. With 15 minutes to go, it seemed that they had done everything right to claim the victory and led 33-20. They lost a bit of concentration, and made a few basic errors, like not finding touch from a penalty and over-kicking a restart, and perhaps they became a smidgen complacent.
That can happen to teams that are serial winners, and you would expect that they will learn from their mistakes and return even stronger. They lost this game by one point after the Lions took advantage of those short-comings. As coach Jake White pointed out, the Lions had a similar experience against the Stormers, learnt from those failures, and dared to not repeat it on a second occasion.
The one area that the Pretoria-based side absolutely terrorised the Lions, was at the rucks. They flooded the breakdown with aggression and precision, taking their chances at the right moments to affect crucial turnovers.
And it wasn’t just the usual suspects that did so, the entire team put in a brilliant effort, from the backline players, to the loosies, to the big men in the front-row. Duane Vermeulen was happily massive for his team, which is good news for both the Bulls and Boks as the season progresses.
A Bok bolter among us
All the teams will enjoy a bye this week with select players being invited to participate in a Bok alignment camp. Wandisile Simelane is one of those players, but a few others also deserve to be involved.
Certainly Sadie and Sithole should be considered, as does the DRC-born Madosh Tambwe - if he is eligible. The Bulls wing had a stellar outing, scoring a try and assisting in the creating of another. At 24-year-old, he is within touching distance of the best years of his career, and he seems to have the pace, talent and skill to be an excellent addition to the Bok setup.