More than a win for Lions
More than a win for LionsSHARE
Lions coach Johan Ackermann knows that his young team's gritty victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein was worth more than just the four log points.
The Johannesburg side made an ideal return to Super Rugby, with a late drop-goal from flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff giving them a dramatic 21-20 victory over the home side.
Travelling with six debutantes in their starting line up and 11 in total in the match day 23, few backed the visitors for an upset.
But Ackermann's charges stuck together and showed that an absence of Super Rugby caps did not necessarily doom a side against an experienced outfit like the Cheetahs.
Although the hosts scored the only tries of the game, it was a high penalty count and the kicking boot of Boshoff that eventually sank the Cheetahs. Boshoff kicked six penalties along with the match-winning drop goal to make sure his side was in second place in the South African conference.
Ackermann said that the win will give them valuable confidence and momentum as they look to build on this start.
“I really don't know what to say. I am at a loss for words. I am just so proud of the guys that stuck in there to give us the victory. This is a huge boost for us confidence wise and we will take much momentum from this for our next game against the Stormers next weekend,” Ackermann said.
It wasn't a series winning performance, with the Lions having much trouble in the scrums. The visitors got pinned regularly by referee Craig Joubert, but after half time it seemed their understanding of the referee's interpretation at scrum-time was much better.
The Lions turned over much possession, another positive they would build on for next weekend.
“We struggled in the scrums, but as soon as we understood what Craig wanted, it went a whole lot better. We also turned over some good possession. We are lucky that we have guys like Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel and Derick Minnie who all play to the ball. That makes the world of difference,” said Ackermann.
Lions captain Whiteley in turn lauded Boshoff for his kicking performance, adding that the last minute drop-goal was one that the Johannesburg based side practised.
“All credit must go to Marnitz. He dropped back and slotted the drop-goal. It was something we worked on during the week and we even got it wrong a couple of times. Luckily it worked when it was needed,” Whiteley said.