JOHANNESBURG – Now for Loftus Versfeld and the Bulls.
Swys de Bruin’s Lions will head up the N1 on Saturday for a meeting with John Mitchell’s men in high spirits and full of confidence after sweeping aside the plucky Jaguares at Ellis Park at the weekend - for their second straight win in this year’s Super Rugby competition.
And what a match awaits the fans in Pretoria after the Bulls opened their account with a gutsy win against the highly-rated Hurricanes on Saturday.
The Lions though - because of their recent record in the competition and the fact they’ve got the better of the Sharks and Jaguares in their first two games - should start as favourites on Saturday, but there will be new hope in the minds of the Bulls who’re now under the guidance of Mitchell, the man often credited for kick-starting the Lions’ turn-around a few seasons ago.
“This is a high pressure competition and we’ll enjoy this win first (before thinking about the Bulls),” was De Bruin’s immediate assessment after his team’s win against the Jaguares on Saturday evening.
But there is no doubt the new Lions head coach and his squad will be a confident bunch. After initially struggling against the men from South America on Saturday - mainly because they forced passes and didn’t protect the ball well enough - they ran away with the contest in the second half and triumphed 47-27.
“It was so frustrating (in the early stages),” said De Bruin. “The guys are so keen to play, to show what they can do, and it was mistake after mistake.
“But the end result was good ... I’ll take 47 points against a full international side any day of the week.”
De Bruin added he never wanted to see his players go the conservative route, even though things didn’t always go to plan with the team’s ball-in-hand style of rugby.
“We like to play a certain brand of rugby and I don’t want us to go all conservative ... that would be against everything we stand for. We want to score spectacular tries, but we could have showed greater patience in the early stages (against the Jaguares),” explained the coach.
“The tendency is to play fast, but some of the offloads were not timed very well.”
The Lions took all of 28 minutes to properly settle on Saturday but when they did they produced a quite stunning display of ball-in-hand, attacking rugby. And the big star - again - was wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, who added two more tries to the two he got on debut against the Sharks in round one.
“He’s a special player who tries things without much effort,” said De Bruin of Ellis Park’s new diamond. “We must credit the forwards first who give him good ball, but Aphiwe can become a legend if we look after him and plan his future well.”
There were other stars in the match-winning performance, including Dyantyi’s wing partner, Sylvian Mahuza, who also scored a great try, as well as fullback Andries Coetzee, centre Harold Vorster, and his midfield partner Lionel Mapoe, who for the second week running produced a scintillating performance.
Up front props Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen were dominant in the scrums, while Kwagga Smith and captain Warren Whiteley were busy throughout the match.
With no injuries to worry about at the final whistle on Saturday, De Bruin is likely to stick with the same starting team for the trip to Pretoria on Saturday.