JOHANNESBURG – Lions boss Swys de Bruin has opted to focus on the positives from their 40-38 escape against the Sunwolves at the weekend, ahead of this week’s trip to Argentina to face the Jaguares.
The Lions delivered one of their most disjointed performances of the last three years in almost going down to the men from Japan at Ellis Park on Saturday, but two late tries by the home team ensured they got over the line unscathed.
After going 31-26 behind with 20 minutes to play, the Lions scored converted tries through Malcolm Marx (his second in the game) and Rohan Janse van Rensburg to make it a fourth win in five outings this season.
“The guys showed massive character when they went behind. They came back at the end and played some great rugby to win it,” said a relieved De Bruin, whose team went down to the Blues the week before.
“It’s a tough competition, and I’d rather focus on the positives. We won 16 out of 16 line-outs, stole five, and also scrummed well. The Sunwolves are a tough team; they’re that kind of side, when they get it right on the day, like at the World Cup (when Japan beat the Springboks in 2015), they can beat anyone. Congrats to them (for their performance), but we’ll take the win.”
De Bruin added some soft moments by his players - decision-making, more than anything else - put his team under unnecessary pressure and said they’d have to jack up their defence if they’re to be a competitive factor this season.
“We’re not able to look after the ball at this stage; it’s something we really have to work on. Every game we’re scoring five, six tries ... that’s what we want, but the opposition is also scoring that many. We need to ensure they don’t score so many against us; it’s a worry at this stage.
“I think it’s a case of us lacking a bit of composure. But that said, the Sunwolves played an excellent all-round game; they’re knocking on that door and I’m sure a big win is around the corner for them.”
The Lions will leave to Buenos Aires later this week knowing they dodged a bullet in the Sunwolves, and determined to right the wrongs of the past two trips to Argentina.
Former coach Johan Ackermann took weakened sides to South America in 2016 and 2017 and on both occasions the Lions lost. De Bruin will also make some rotational switches to his team this week, but he is adamant the Lions will be fully charged for the match on Saturday night.
“We’re a 37-man squad and everyone has bought into the rotation policy we’re following. This is a long season and everyone understands the needs of the squad. Some guys will stay behind this week, but we’re going to be a full-strength team,” insisted De Bruin.
“It’s a tough trip going there and coming back, and waiting for us next week are the Crusaders. The next two weeks is a big challenge and we have to plan accordingly ... we rested some players for this game (Sunwolves) and we have to rest others elsewhere. But then there are some guys like Franco (Mostert), Elton (Jantjies), Malcolm (Marx) who don’t want a break, who flourish the more they play.
“It’s a bit of a balancing act but I think it’s a good thing we’re going off now as a group. We’re the underdogs going to Argentina, but that’s fine. We’re going to go out to play maximum rugby, score five tries and more, but hopefully not concede as many.”
The Lions will fly out on Wednesday.