JOHANNESBURG - Lions boss Swys de Bruin has labelled his team’s 52-31 win against the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday among the most satisfying this season, and called it the “right medicine” before they head overseas for four matches in Australasia.
The Lions ran in eight tries to emphatically get the better of the Stormers for their 20th unbeaten game against all other South African opposition, stretching back to May 2015.
Young wing Madosh Tambwe was the big star with four tries on the night, but there were other outstanding performances, namely from Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Elton Jantjies, Dillon Smit, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Malolm Marx.
The win came at a time when several questions were being asked about the Lions’ form and strength, as well as their coaching team after they’d lost three of their last four matches in the last month.
But they answered their critics in the best way possible with a five-star performance, in all departments, to return to the top of the Super Rugby points table as they go into their bye week.
“We’ve scored 43 tries so far, the most by any team, and that’s an average of five per game, so we’ve been there all along,” said De Bruin when quizzed about the up and down form of his team in recent weeks.
“I have to compliment the defence coach (Joey Mongalo) ... we took a big step up there this week and the work he’s put in has been unbelievable.
"I thought our defence (against the Stormers) was unreal. Well done to Joey, he’s a great coach with a big future ahead of him,” De Bruin explained.
Indeed, the Lions’ defence was top-notch, as it was the week before against the Crusaders, and it was no surprise De Bruin said after Saturday’s game the final puzzle pieces fell into place at the weekend.
“That was a very strong Stormers side and yes, it was an all-round performance,” said the coach. “It’s up there as one of the most satisfying this season, along with the win at Loftus against the Bulls.
"It came at just the right time for us, with the bye week coming up and the tour ahead of us. I don’t want to get too carried away though; this is a long competition.”
The Lions raced into a 19-0 lead inside 13 minutes after Tambwe’s hat-trick and never took their foot off the pedal. They dominated most aspects of the clash, even though the Stormers saw plenty of ball and carried it strongly, but they battled to find a way through the Lions’ defence.
The home team also caused all sorts of problems at the rucks and mauls, and when they got a chance to attack, they did so with precision and pace.
De Bruin’s men enjoyed a comfortable 31-10 lead at the break and scored a further three tries in the second half.
The home team’s kicking game, especially by Jantjies, who controlled matters like the seasoned pro that he is, was out of the top drawer and the flyhalf’s kicks into space and touch finders showed he is ready to step up again for the Springboks this season. Fullback Coetzee was also on top of his game.
“Our tactical kicking was brilliant, and hats off to them. The spine (scrumhalf Smit, Jantjies and Coetzee) were fantastic,” said De Bruin. “Apart from the improved defence, the big change was our kicking.”
The Lions will now enjoy a bye week before heading to Australasia for matches against the Waratahs, Reds, Highlanders and Hurricanes. They will only fly out next week and will consider taking along previously injured players such as Warren Whiteley, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Ross Cronje. De Bruin will only finalise his tour group closer to the time of departure.