Johannesburg - Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie heaped praise on the Lions for the way they have reacted to relegation from this year’s Super Rugby tournament, after his side’s 33-17 loss to the Johannesburg-based side on Saturday.
The Lions made a spirited comeback in the second half of the warm-up match from a 10-point deficit to triumph in the end.
“You have to give credit to the Lions for the way they played, especially in the second half, how they came back and used their opportunities,” Fourie said.
VIDEO: Lions v Cheetahs highlights
Fourie lamented his side’s performance and believed some of the players did not impress in their first outing of the season.
While the Cheetahs showed some potential on attack, their defence ultimately let them down as they leaked five tries.
“The combinations are not tried yet and from a coaching point of view, we wanted to see how the guys performed in the positions they were selected,” he said.
“There are a few guys that would be disappointed today and the effort wasn’t good enough.”
Fourie said it remained a challenge at the start of the season to find the right combinations from their options.
“It is always difficult for the Cheetahs at the beginning of the Super Rugby season to decide between players from the Griquas and us, who are the best and second best,” Fourie said.
“These games are there to look at this and there were guys that looked good in training but did not put up their hands after we expected them to do better.”
While Fourie was disappointed in his team’s performance, he saw a light at the end of the tunnel with some of their first choice players set to return from injuries.
Springbok flanker Juan Smith should make his return after more than two year’s absence due to an Achilles injury, while Heinrich Brussow will also soon be back for the team.
“There are so many of our first-choice players that have to return from injury - you are looking at guys like Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow, Philip van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne which are almost a whole pack of forwards,” he said.
“There is still some fire power at home and if everyone is ready we will have a really good team.”
Meanwhile, Lions coach Johan Ackermann said both teams would be disappointed with the amount of mistakes they made in the match.
“From a supporter’s point of view, it was an exciting match because both teams gave the ball some flight and there were some beautiful tries,” Ackermann said.
“I am really proud of the character the guys showed and the highlight was that they kept on working on what we believed in and the low point was that we could not control the kick-offs.”
Ackermann praised Lionel Cronje and Stokkies Hanekom for their sterling performances in the midfield.
Hanekom was the standout player of the match scoring a brace of tries.