Lions have be­come masters of the late try

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

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.”

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