RUAN TO THE RES­CUE

Com­brinck holds his nerve to se­cure a last ditch quar­ter-fi­nal win for Lions

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

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.

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