JOHANNESBURG – Despite going down to the Sharks in an entertaining round 15 Super Rugby match in Durban on Saturday, Lions coach Swys de Bruin said he had been pleased with his team’s showing.
The Lions lost 27-17, but conceded two intercept tries to Curwin Bosch and Makazole Mapimpi when they could easily have scored themselves, while a few second-half officiating decisions also went against the visitors according to De Bruin.
Replacement forward Reinhardt Nothnagel was denied a try after being adjudged to have been off his feet when he crossed the tryline, while centre Lionel Mapoe was pulled back by a Sharks player, seemingly above the shoulders, when it appeared he’d gone through a gap and the Lions looked good to attack the tryline.
“We were in the game the whole time. We did everything playing-wise to win it, but our execution cost us. They scored two interception tries so well done to them,” said a somewhat deflated De Bruin.
And he has every right to feel his team should have, and could have, won. The Lions dominated almost all departments of the match and enjoyed 64% of the possession. They also beat the Sharks in the following areas: ball carries (140-67), defenders beaten (29-15), clean breaks (13-5), passes (209-79), rucks won (99-38) and missed tackles (15-29).
The loss was the fourth in a row against local opposition this year, having not lost to a South African team for almost three years before the start of the 2019 competition. Earlier in the season the Lions also lost to the Sharks at Ellis Park (42-5), the Bulls and Stormers.
“We had (a) good run the last four to five years,” said De Bruin. “That’s sport ... the Sharks beat us on the day, so well done to them.
“There were still a lot of positives for me in the game. The way we played with ball in hand, we ran well, and I can watch the likes of Mapoe, Courtnall (Skosan), and Aphiwe (Dyantyi) all day; they’re such exciting runners. It’s just a pity we couldn’t capitalise today.
“The game could have gone any way really. I’m so proud of the boys. We played all the rugby, our brand, but they scored the intercepts. We play rugby for the love of it, to inspire people with our style ... and we did that today. We’ve simply got to live with the result.”
The defeat - the Lions’ sixth overall in 13 matches - leaves them in fourth place in the SA conference with 30 points, while the Sharks are second with 33 points. The Jaguares lead the way with 36 points and look favourites now to be crowned conference winners in a few weeks’ time, while the Bulls are third (32) and Stormers fifth (30).
The Lions now turn their attention to the return fixture against the Stormers, who beat them in round two at Newlands after the hooter had sounded.
The Capetonians will be upbeat after registering a win against the Highlanders on Saturday and drawing against the Crusaders the week before.@jacq_west