The Lions scored seven tries in a thrilling win against the Jaguares at Ellis Park on Saturday, as they returned to winning ways after a couple of difficult weeks.
Swys de Bruin’s men had lost to the Stormers (away) and the Bulls (home) before the return match against the Jaguares – who they beat in Buenos Aires in round one – and were under pressure to hit back on home soil. And how they responded!
De Bruin had dropped several senior campaigners from his matchday squad including Lionel Mapoe, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Rian Combrinck and Hacjivah Dayimani and replaced them with a number of rookies and former SA Under-20 stars.
It was a gamble by De Bruin, but it was one that paid off.
The Lions, with future stars like Wandisile Simelane, Ruan Vermaak, Franco Naude, Vincent Tshituka and others in the mix, ran the Jaguares ragged and showed the three-time runners up have more than enough depth for them to stay competitive, and be one of this country’s dominant franchise teams in future.
There was a new energy in the team and a determination to show the coaching team thay had made the right decisions by picking them.
It was a much-improved performance from the week before, when the Lions looked out-of-sorts against the Bulls.
On this occasion they took on the physical Jaguares players at close quarters, dominated them in the scrums and lineouts and asked questions with the ball at the back.
Even seasoned men like Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan, Andries Coetzee and Malcolm Marx looked refreshed.
The Lions dominated proceedings from start to finish and scored some wonderful tries. The Jaguares looked as if they were out on their feet minutes after the game kicked off and had to rely on a few driving mauls to get on the scoreboard.
Their poor discipline also didn’t help their cause; they gave away numerous penalties which inevitably put them on the back foot and allowed the Lions to gain the ascendancy.
It was a far from clinical performance by the Lions, but then it was always unlikely to be the case considering all the changes made to the team in the week.
And De Bruin and Co won’t be happy with the six tries they conceded – four of them coming in the final 26 minutes when the Lions scored nothing - and some of the handling errors that cropped into their play in the second half.
It was a win though the Lions desperately needed after the consecutive defeats against the Stormers and Bulls.
De Bruin had also been hoping to test some of his younger players for some time and by default nearly he got the chance in the last week – and how they paid him back.
There is life in this Lions team, but they’ll face an altogether different test this week when Australia’s best side, the Rebels, visit Joburg.
De Bruin will certainly be tempted to give the same group of players who ran out against the Jaguares another chance, but he’s also sure to bring back some of the more experienced men, too, even if they play off the bench and ensure a stronger, more clinical finish than was the case here on Saturday.
Lions (26) 47
Tries: Herbst, Jantjies, Smith, Simelane, Schoeman, Skosan (2); Conversions: Jantjies (6)
Jaguares (13) 39
Tries: Orlando, Montoya (2), Baldunciel, Moroni, Tuculet; Conversions: Bonilla, Mallia (2); Penalty: Bonilla@jacq_west