RUAN TO THE RESCUE
Combrinck holds his nerve to secure a last ditch quarter-final win for Lions
THERE wasn’t a doubt what Ruan Combrinck, wanted to do: he wanted to make up for his missed kick a few minutes earlier and knock this one over. Victory and a place in the Super Rugby semi-finals were on the line.
“I looked across to Cash (conditioning coach Ivan van Rooyen) and (defence coach) JP (Ferreira) for any indication of what we should do and they were pointing to the line, indicating we must kick it to the corner and set up a lineout. But then I saw Commies with the kicking tee in his hand,” explained Lions skipper Jaco Kriel after his team had beaten the Sharks 23-21.
The Sharks had ruffled the Lions’ feathers with an aggressive, in-yourface style of rugby that saw them race into a 14-3 lead at half-time and leave the Lions a wounded lot. Not at any stage during the season had they looked so out-of-sorts; forced into making error after error.
Johan Ackermann’s men knocked the ball on, they threw passes that weren’t on, they turned ball over and they couldn’t finish off the plethora of scoring opportunities they created.
They came back strongly in the second spell with three tries but with minutes left on the clock and the Sharks in front it came down to one kick, from 55 metres out. Ackermann and just about every Lions fan would have been praying for the ball to fly over the cross-bar, especially after seeing Elton Jantjies miss four kicks at goal during an off-day for him and Combrinck also missing in the 72nd minute.
Up stepped the wing. He slotted the kick that mattered to put the Lions 23-21 up with two minutes to go. “If you know Ruan Combrinck, if you know his character, you’ll understand him a little better,” said Kriel. “He’s always one of the last guys leaving training after kicking 60 metre penalties ... how many go over we don’t know. But he’s always looking for an opportunity to be part of the big moment. “I must admit I had my doubts after he’d missed the earlier kick ... and this was ‘you win it or lose it’. Credit to him, he kept his composure and got it over.” Ackermann admitted he wanted his team to kick that penalty into the corner and set up a line-out. “We’d just got away from our own corner after a line-out win and I knew if we moved up field, towards the halfway line we could maybe force a penalty ... and then we did. Personally, I wanted the corner kick, to get a little closer (to the Sharks line), but Commies had no doubt. He was adamant he wanted to kick it.
“There were a lot of grey hairs right there ... I was thinking, ‘is this the way you’re going to end your time with the Lions’. Thankfully that kick went over.”
Ackermann said the result of the match should not have hinged on that one late penalty. “We just weren’t accurate enough for the whole 80 minutes and will have to improve a lot if we’re to get past this coming weekend,” admitted Ackermann. “Our decision-making at times was poor ... like throwing an intercept pass in a knockout game; it’s not on. Also, our kicking was poor, tactically and at goal, and if we’re honest we were lucky to win. The thing is we had so much possession and dominated territory and created chances which we didn’t take. Earlier in the season we would have scored from those opportunities.” TIME TO PARTY: The Lions players celebrate beating the Sharks to make it through to the semi-finals of Super Rugby. Ruan Combrinck kicked the winning penalty after an error-ridden quarter-final at Ellis Park.