JOHANNESBURG - Lions coach Swys de Bruin has admitted that Saturday’s 30-12 Super Rugby defeat at home to the Bulls ranks as one of the lowest points in his career.
De Bruin has been at the Lions since 2013, first as assistant coach to Johan Ackermann and more recently as head coach. In that time he has experienced the Lions being “kicked out” of Super Rugby in 2013 to make way for the Southern Kings and also had to accept three straight final losses - in 2016, 2017 and last year.
There have been lows, but De Bruin said Saturday’s loss to the Bulls - who became the first local team to win at Ellis Park in four years - was up there with the worst and most disappointing moments in his time in Johannesburg.
“This is definitely one of the lows, one of the most disappointing,” said De Bruin after Pote Human’s Bulls team won on the weekend.
“The other result that was a real low point was the 50-17 defeat by the Hurricanes (in April 2016), when Ackers (Ackermann) was head coach. This one, like that one, leaves one with a horrible taste in the mouth. This match was my 93rd game involved with the Lions and it’s a very disappointing result.”
De Bruin’s team, minus key forwards like the injured Warren Whiteley, Marvin Orie and Cyle Brink, and missing the now departed Andries Ferreira, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen, were physically dominated by the Bulls in the forwards department, while flyhalf Handre Pollard managed the game superbly from flyhalf.
Pollard, who took over the Bulls captaincy from the injured Lood de Jager, kicked every kickable penalty, ensuring the scoreboard ticked over, while the Lions were stopped in their tracks by hard, aggressive defence. De Bruin’s men were also guilty of giving away too many penalties, which prevented them from getting any proper go-forward ball.
“We made some terrible knocks and our discipline was nowhere. If you’re going to give away silly penalties, you’re not going to win any games. It was a very frustrating day because we just weren’t allowed to play... and we’re a team that needs the ball to play,” said De Bruin.
“They out-muscled us with their big and heavy forwards. They kept things tight and Handre kept them going forward. It was like playing against the Bulls pack of old; they were brutal. We had to man up, but we didn’t.”
De Bruin said his players would simply have to take the defeat on the chin and move on. “We were taught a rugby lesson. But we will go and analyse where things went wrong and why and we’ll move on. In sport you have to move forward,” he said.
Hooker Malcolm Marx, who has taken over the Lions captaincy from Whiteley said he thought the Bulls were much-improved from previous seasons. “They’re playing a good brand of rugby; you could see that. There’s definitely been a big improvement from the last few years, but I’d prefer to focus on us, to fix what went wrong,” Marx said.
The Lions this week welcome the Jaguares to Johannesburg; the team they beat in round one in Buenos Aires. The visitors are coming off back-to-back wins against the Bulls and Blues, but this is their first away game this season.@jacq_west