Johannesburg - While the Golden Lions can celebrate their supremacy at the top of the Currie Cup log, they have been dealt a big blow with the news that three of their key players will be unavailable for the next two weeks because of Springbok duty.
The Lions have now opened a three-point gap in the competition after their come-from-behind 28-22 victory over the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was, however, the bearer of bad news for the Lions as he named in-form flyhalf Elton Jantjies, talented utility back Jaco Taute and prop CJ van der Linde in his squad for the national side’s final two matches in the Rugby Championship.
This news means they now have to travel to Newlands to take on Western Province this week without Jantjies, Taute and Van der Linde, which could make their trip considerably harder. The trio will also miss their game against Griquas in Kimberley the following week.
The loss of Jantjies, especially, is a big blow as he has been a standout player in this year's Currie Cup.
However, they are in a favourable position at the top of the log and will take confidence from their comeback win over the Sharks.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann praised his charges for their show of character to come up victorious after they trailed by 16-6 at the half-time break.
“The character was tested and the guys showed character, so I am very proud of them and grateful,” Ackermann said.
“The good thing about the win is always it keeps the excitement in the camp up and that is the positives.”
He, however, felt the team still had a lot to improve on if they wanted to defend their title successfully.
“There are a lot of things that we can correct but it is better to win than to fall behind and start chasing on the log,” he said.
“There is still a lot of work to do and we are still a way off from where we want to be but hopefully in the next few weeks we will become even better.”
The top-of-the-log clash saw the Sharks move into the second place on the log, three points behind the Lions and a point ahead of Western Province.
Sharks mentor John Plumtree lamented the fact his side let the match slip out of their grasp and their inability to execute properly.
“We just didn’t build enough pressure, the times we had the ball and put pressure on them we looked - after four, five phases - like we could break them,” Plumtree said.
“That was our main focus this week we tried to just keep it simple but the guys couldn’t execute so it is disappointing.
“We aren’t going to win the Currie Cup unless we can do our share of attacking and building pressure.”
The Sharks will host the Blue Bulls in Durban next week while the Golden Lions will next face the third-placed Western Province in Cape Town.