Lions have become masters of the late try
THE Lions go into the Super Rugby playoffs as the second best try-scoring team, with 78 touchdowns so far. What many people don’t know is that a good number of those tries have come in the dying minutes of a half, and sometimes even after the hooter has sounded to signal the end of a half.
One thing the Lions players under Johan Ackermann will never do, is go to bed after a game wondering what might have been. They’ve become the masters of the post hooter try; as witnessed again last weekend when Andries Coetzee went over in the corner in Durban moments after the siren had sounded to end the first half.
It was not the first time this season that Ackermann’s men dotted down when other teams simply opt to run the ball into touch or kick it into the stands. In Australia this year, Elton Jantjies (in the 83rd minute against the Force) and Warren Whiteley (in the 80th minute against the Rebels) scored after the siren had sounded. The Lions won those games 24-15 and 47-10.
In the 54-10 win over the Kings at the end of May, fullback Coetzee also scored after the siren had sounded to signal the end of the game, while Ruan Combrinck went over in the 80th minute against the Sunwolves a few weeks ago.
At the end of the first 40, as seen by Coetzee last weekend, the Lions have also scored when their opponents have least expected them to have a go.
Lions attack coach Swys de Bruin, said yesterday the players want to make the most of the possession that comes their way, whether it’s before or after the hooter sounding. “If you’ve got the ball and given an opportunity to score points, why would you kick it away?” asked De Bruin.
“We want to score tries ... that’s why we play the game. We’ll always look to run the ball and score points, unless of course we’re under serious pressure.
“Having a go when no one expects you to, also sets a positive tone; it ensures a positive mindset is maintained during half-time.”
The Sharks, after being caught “sleeping” by Coetzee last weekend, and also when they met in April when Malcolm Marx scored a try on the stroke of half-time in the narrow 34-29 victory for the Lions, will be all too aware of what the Lions can do when they meet in the quarter-finals in Joburg this weekend.
Coming just a week after last Saturday’s meeting in Durban, De Bruin said his team were in for a mighty assignment. “They asked a lot of questions of us when they came up here first time round and we know we’re in for a very physical arm-wrestle.
“We certainly didn’t produce our A-game in Durban ... maybe because the players were overexcited and the adrenaline was pumping after seeing the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders (which gave the Lions a chance of finishing top of the log). So, we’re going to have to be much better this weekend.” • De Bruin, meanwhile, has got more than the Super Rugby quarter-final to keep him busy this week; he’s also got to help the Currie Cup side prepare for their opening match in the competition, against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Sunday.
De Bruin will take over fulltime from Ackermann – who’s going to Gloucester in England - post Super Rugby, with his first assignment the Currie Cup.
“I’m just guiding the coaches there right now. My focus is solely on Super Rugby ... finishing top of the log and getting this opportunity, at home, might happen once in your life.”