JOHANNESBURG – Lions boss Swys de Bruin has vowed his team “won’t give in” after crashing to their third defeat in four matches at the weekend.
In a repeat of last year’s final, the Crusaders pipped the Lions 14-8 at Ellis Park on Sunday; the second time in seven months that the eight-time champions from New Zealand have come to Joburg and won.
The defeat followed earlier setbacks last month against the Blues (home) and Jaguares (away), with a narrow win against the lowly Sunwolves sandwiched in between. Sunday’s eight-points scored by the Lions was also the first time in 40 matches, going back to round one in 2015 against the Hurricanes at Ellis Park, that they failed to score more than 10 points in a match. Then, the Lions lost 8-22.
In an error-ridden game on Sunday, the Lions scored an early try through wing Madosh Tambwe. But they hardly threatened again, with only a late penalty by Elton Jantjies ensuring they came away with a losing bonus point.
“It was like a Test game until the end. We created one or two chances but didn’t capitalise, while they did,” said De Bruin afterwards.
“It was an arm-wrestle, but it’s not the end of the world yet. The bonus point we got could make a big difference at the end, so that’s a positive. We’re not going to make excuses, the Crusaders played very well, but the reality is we’re missing six Springboks at this stage.”
De Bruin was referring to captain Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Combrinck, Courtnall Skosan, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Ross Cronje who missed the match because of injury.
“We need to bear in mind these guys make a big difference, even though their stand-ins have done well. Congratulations to the Crusaders; that’s sport,” said De Bruin.
The Lions are still second on the overall standings, but they have a big match against the Stormers coming up this weekend before they enjoy a bye and then it’s off to Australasia for four weeks.
“We need to get over this as quickly as possible and turn our attention to the Stormers,” said the Lions coach. “They’re also coming off a loss (against the Bulls), while we’ve had a few bumps in the road. We won’t give in. I know the character of this group.”
The Lions’ defence has been frail in recent weeks, but it was much-improved at the weekend. They did, however, give up plenty in attack, creating just a handful of chances and scoring the one try. De Bruin and his coaching team will be desperate to strike the right balance again this week, with plenty riding on the outcome of the Stormers game - the Lions won’t want to go on tour on the back of another home defeat.
After spending yesterday recovering, the Lions will be back in training today and De Bruin will hope to hear some good news about some of his injured men.
Wing Combrinck may be back this week, while scrumhalf Cronje and centre Janse van Rensburg, too, may be ready for action after sitting out in recent times. There’s also a small chance Whiteley will come through a fitness test later in the week to take up the captaincy of the team again.