“It was a very important win for us, coming after a difficult few weeks and following our recent tour,” De Bruin said after his side won 38-29 against the former champions.
“It was good for the team and I sensed there was a spark in the players’ eyes again – I enjoyed seeing that.”
The Lions have now won two matches on the trot after also getting the better of the Waratahs since returning from their Australasian tour.
De Bruin’s men have now registered seven wins in 12 outings and are third in the SA Conference with 30 points. The Bulls and Jaguares, first and second respectively, have 32 points each.
Both teams scored five tries on Saturday, but Lions No10 Elton Jantjies converted all six attempts at goal, while the Highlanders left nine points on the field in what was a thrilling round-14 match. De Bruin said it was one of the better performances by his team this season.
“The Highlanders are a very good team. I think they beat the Sunwolves 57-0, and with 20 minutes to go today (on Saturday). I felt that if we were to lose the match it would be okay, I wouldn’t be upset, because I had seen so much effort from my players,” said De Bruin.
“I’m very pleased with the result. They came at us hard, and it’s what I wanted to get out of the game.
“It’s the closest we’ve come this season to how we want to play. We gave away a few soft tries, but take those away and I’m very happy.”
The Lions were the better team in most departments and asked more questions than the visitors from Dunedin did.
For a change, the Lions also tackled strongly, missing just 16 tackles to the Highlanders’ 37, but they won’t be happy with the soft tries that they gave away. Also, the home team only gave away three penalties to the Highlanders’ 12.
De Bruin and his charges will now look ahead to the return fixture against the Sharks in Durban this week with a lot more confidence in the squad than was the case a few weeks ago.
“Yes, we needed this win,” said the coach. “Here at the Lions the focus isn’t always only on winning, but also about how we play. However, winning is also important, and it does give one a lot of confidence and we needed it.
“The Sharks are next up for us in Durban, and we all know they gave us a hiding the last time. I’m not saying it is payback time, but the score was huge.”
The Lions will hope to have regular No8 Warren Whiteley back for the trip to the east coast after he sat out Saturday’s match with a bruised knee.@jacq_west