VIDEO: 'I did not panic'
WATCH as Golden Lions coach Zacharia de Bruin reacts angrily to a suggestion he 'panicked' when he made a rash of first-half replacements in the 5-19 loss to Western Province.
It is the second consecutive year that the Lions were soundly beaten in a Currie Cup semifinal, despite bringing in a host of Springboks for the knock-out match.
However, it was De Bruin's decision to change his entire front row just on the half-hour mark - having already done the smoke-and-mirrors routine with his pre-match team announcement - that raised the eyebrows.
When De Bruin announced his team last Thursday, to play on the semifinal, he had Jacques van Rooyen, Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer as his starting front row. Robbie Coetzee, Dylan Smith and Jacobie Adriaanse were on the replacement bench.
In the hours before kick-off De Bruin released a new starting XV that had Van Rooyen, Coetzee and Smith starting - with Marx, Dreyer and Adriaanse on the bench.
However, when the teams ran out onto the field the Lions' front row had again changed.
Van Rooyen, Coetzee and Adriaanse started - with Smith, Marx and Dreyer on the bench.
On the half-hour mark - with the Lions' scrum under constant pressure and the visitors trailing 5-6 - Smith, Marx and Dreyer took to the field in a move that raised more than just a few eyebrows.
A bitterly disappointed De Bruin said the changes were prompted by injury, rather than any mid-match jitters or a lack of composure, on his behalf.
"[Ruan] Dreyer had a bit of a rib [injury] that he battled with," the coach explained, when asked about the front row shenanigans.
"We had to inject him [with a pain killer] and I didn't want to put him under that pressure. Malcolm [Marx] was an absolute folk hero for South Africa. The plan was to see how it goes and just bring him on a bit later.
"It wasn't a case of trying this or trying that."
When it was pointed out to him that the changes resembled a bit of panic, his response was curt: "That is your opinion.
"There was definitely no panic whatsoever. I just explained why I did it."
De Bruin did not explain why an injured player was sent on as a replacement, if he was already doubtful to start with.
With Province having also made a mockery of the Lions' line-outs, a by now agitated De Bruin said: "They were good in the line-outs.
"On the day we were beaten by a very good, hungry side. All credit to them.
"They showed an upwards curve [in the win] against the Sharks last week."
He also expressed his disappointment in the Lions' inability to convert the opportunities they did create, especially in the final quarter when the visitors dominated territory.
By Jan de Koning