It was a crucial four log points gained at this back end of the season, and came after a difficult few weeks for the three-time competition runners-up and South Africa’s premier team for the last few years.
Following the 29-28 win the Lions are fourth in the SA Conference table, just behind the leaders, the Sharks, who are on 29 but have played a game more, and they are followed by the Bulls and Jaguares, who are both on 28 points. The Stormers are fifth with 24 points.
“Now it’s the enjoyable time of season,” said coach Swys de Bruin after his side’s narrow win on Saturday at Ellis Park against the former champions.
“We’re right in there. The Bulls must still go on tour, too, so our fate is back in our own hands. We have to capitalise from here on in, but it is dog fight now.”
Indeed, any one of the five teams in the SA Conference could still finish on top. The Sharks have four games to play; the other four teams have five fixtures left.
De Bruin said there was a sense of accomplishment that his players had managed to get over the line on Saturday and secure an important win.
“Coming off the bye week, which is not always a good thing, and after what happened on tour, there is definitely a feeling of relief. I would have taken any result, even a 6-5 win,” said De Bruin. He returned home from New Zealand during the Lions’ overseas tour last month after suffering a breakdown due to stress.
Also, Lions’ defence coach Joey Mongalo left the tour on the eve of the second tour game against the Chiefs after he was found guilty of indecently assaulting a hotel worker in Sydney while the Lions were on tour there last year.
He has appealed against the findings.
“We had lots of trials and tribulations, lots of challenges,” said De Bruin about the last month or so. “If you look at all that stuff and look at how we started today (against the Waratahs on Saturday), I thought we did very well to come back and win the game.”@jacq_west