Kwagga: The man of the moment

Fri, 12 May 2017 17:59

REACTION: Lions coach Johan Ackermann and captain Warren Whiteley both spoke of the team's character and defensive grit on their historic Australian tour.

However, they admitted it was a moment of brilliance by Sevens Springbok Albertus Smith that sealed a 13-6 win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday and secure a historic 3-0 sweep Down Under.

The crucial play came in the 54th minute - with the score 3-all and the Brumbies on attack just outside the Lions 22-metre area.

A stray pass that saw the ball land on the ground between two Brumbies, allowed centre Lionel Mapoe to snatch the ball and in the tackle offloaded to Smith - who set off on a 70-metre sprint for what turned out to be the match-winning score.

Both Ackermann and Whiteley spoke of the "one error" a very determined Brumbies team made.

"We managed to get the ball in the right guy's hand, which was a Sevens specialist and he just gassed it," Whiteley said of the match's only try.

Ackermann described it as one of the games where they played the least amount of rugby in the last three or four years.

The 23-year-old Smith in the highly successful South African Sevens team till he switched to the 15-man code earlier this year, helped his country to the gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games.

His pace has seen him score 55 tries in 135 Sevens matches since his debut at the end of 2013.

There were cynics who doubted he would make the conversion to the 15-a-side game, given his slight frame.

However, he showed that he does have that x-factor that can change tight games.

Ackermann said he was grateful and pleased with a historic, unbeaten tour of Australia.

"It keeps the momentum going, but there is still a lot of hard work to be done," he said of their four remaining matches ahead of the play-offs.

"We will enjoy this, as it was a historical and memorable tour."

He admitted that after the full-time whistle assistant coach Swys de Bruin and himself said they don't know how they managed to win against the determined Brumbies outfit.

"We had no fluency and they put a lot of pressure on us," he said, adding: "It made the win more special, ending the tour like that [unbeaten].

"It was in the 26th or 27th minute before we could call a play, as we defended all the time.

"However, when we went into half-time just 0-3 down, we knew we had an opportunity, as the guys would always fight to the end.

"It required a lot of character from the guys.

"The number of times they broke our line, the guys scrambled on defence."

The coach said the area in which they need to improve the most is when conditions are wet and slippery and they lose that fluency, they don't look as great as they want to be.

"When it is a 3-0 game or a 10-6 game, that is when composure and decision-making come into it.

"That is where the side has grown a lot.

"I must be remembered we have about eight players out that played in the Final last year.

"We started with a young front row on the tighthead and he would have learned a lot from this game.

"[Some of] the guys who finished the game for us, [like] Lourens Erasmus and Jacques Nel, did not play a big role in last year's set-up.

"That is the big positive for us, when a player is injured [Julian Redelinghuys] or retired like a Warwick Tecklenburg, players like Ruan [Dreyer] stepped up and showed a lot of composure."

Whiteley described it as a "very" satisfying win.

"It was tough, a grind," he said, adding: "But we knew this was going to be our biggest challenge in Australia.

"We knew this was going to be a physical battle and a game of inches.

"I am extremely proud of the guys, to come on tour and finish off like this."

He spoke of keeping the guys calm under pressure.

"We managed to get out of our half very well at times. That is a testament to the grit within the team.

"The guys stayed calm and [produced] really exceptional defence. We managed to exit well.

"It was a tough tour and you could see the happiness at the end of the game."

@rugby365com

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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Brumbies 15 6 0 9 34
Force 15 6 0 9 26
Reds 15 4 0 11 21
Waratahs 15 4 0 11 19
Rebels 15 1 1 13 9
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 15 14 0 1 63
Hurricanes 15 12 0 3 58
Chiefs 15 12 1 2 57
Highlanders 15 11 0 4 51
Blues 15 7 1 7 37
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 15 10 0 5 43
Cheetahs 15 4 0 11 21
Bulls 15 4 0 11 20
Sunwolves 15 2 0 13 12
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Team P W D L Pts
Lions 15 14 0 1 65
Sharks 15 9 1 5 42
Jaguares 15 7 0 8 33
Kings 15 6 0 9 28