De Bruin praises 14-man Lions despite defeat
REACTION: Lions head coach Zacharia Francois de Bruin praised his team for playing their "best" rugby despite losing their third match of the 2017 Currie Cup season. Josh Isaacson reports.
The Lions were outscored by seven tries to five en route to a 31-47 defeat to the Sharks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
De Bruin, in his first game at the helm of the Lions, saw his side give away a 31-12 lead on the back of a red card to hooker Robbie Coetzee in the 51st minute of the game, before the Sharks fought back and scored 35 unanswered points to condemn the new Lions coach to his first defeat.
Coetzee received a red card on Saturday for kicking Sharks flank Jacques Vermeulen in the face and speaking to reporters after the game, De Bruin chose to focus on his team's performance before the red card.
"We really played phenomenal rugby to get a 31-12 [lead] - one of the best rugby I've seen this team play in a long time," De Bruin pointed out.
The Lions have now received two red cards in the space of two weeks, with Coetzee's red card following on from the red card which flank Albertus 'Kwagga' Smith received for playing Crusaders fullback David Havili in the air during the Super Rugby Final, which the Lions lost 17-25 at Ellis Park on August 5.
Reflecting on both red cards, which have cost the Lions dearly over the last two weeks, De Bruin believes it was not because of poor discipline from the players.
"There is no way that last weekend's thing of Kwagga and Robbie's thing today can be linked to discipline whatsoever.
"I will protect both of them because that was not discipline problems," said De Bruin.
De Bruin added that he had analysed the kick to the face from Coetzee, which led to the red card on Saturday. However, he was unable to give an opinion on whether the red card was valid or not due to SARU (South African Rugby Union) regulations which prevent coaches from criticising match officials.
"We did look a few times already, real time and slow motion and I'm not allowed to say anything according to SARU regulations, so I will rather not say a word," De Bruin explained.
The Golden Lions currently sit in sixth position on the Currie Cup table with nine points from four matches played, which includes one win and three defeats.
The 2015 Currie Cup champions next fixture is against Western Province in a Round Six matchup at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.
By Josh Isaacson, at Ellis Park