Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff officially served notice to Bok Elton Jantjies that his number 10 jersey is secure with a 21-point haul that gave his side their first Vodacom Super Rugby victory in two years in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
According to the supersport.com website, Boshoff’s performance – which included the 78th minute drop goal that won the game for the visitors – had coach Johan Ackermann overjoyed at the victory, and the first shock of this year’s tournament.
And while the Lions will know that there will be tougher games ahead – starting with the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday - they will also know they have a match-winner and no longer necessarily need to rely on Jantjies to propel the team forward in the competition.
Jantjies is likely to only return in a week or two from a shoulder injury, but Boshoff is set to make a firm bid to make the 10 jersey his own in that time – something that Ackermann has encouraged him to do.
Ackermann said that he had upped the ante for the players, challenging them to set a personal goal and go for it. Boshoff’s sudden rise is a problem that the coach says he would “love to have” in terms of team selection.
“I challenged the players on their personal goals. You can’t just play rugby. Players needed to decide what they wanted out of the season. Is it to make the jersey yours? Or is it to make the Springbok team? If Marnitz becomes the No 1 player in the 10 jersey it will create a problem for us with Elton coming back, but it is probably a nice problem to have. It will mean Elton will have to fight for his jersey,” Ackermann explained.
“I know Bossie is a great 15 but I don’t want to change the team week by week, the players who do the hard work and get the results deserve to keep the jersey. The players know I am very passionate about making the jersey your own and keeping it. It is a nice situation to be in to know you have a Springbok flyhalf waiting in the wings, but hopefully Bossie will continue to give performances like this one.”
The Lions coach praised his players for their one-point victory over the Cheetahs, and said he and assistant coach Swys de Bruin “couldn’t have asked for a better start to 2014.”
“I don’t what to say because I’m so humbled by the fight the players gave – exactly what I asked them to before the game – they hung in there and really showed a lot of character,” Ackermann added.
“Before the match we said we’ve done everything we could, and now we needed to enjoy it. The players played for each other and I’m proud of them. They know we’re busy with a process, and sometimes things will go against you on the field, and you can’t control that. From there on, you know you have to knuckle down and do the business. You hope the momentum will swing your way and that when it does, you’re not too far behind. That was the secret, we were hanging in there and we stayed in touch for them.”
But Ackermann warned that the team still had a lot of work to do to get to the level they have set for themselves for the season.
And they need to raise the level for the arrival of the Stormers in Johannesburg this weekend.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves, we have a long season ahead. We will face quality teams and next week doesn’t get easier with the Stormers coming to Ellis Park. You must enjoy the win and enjoy the moment. You can’t get ahead of yourself but it’s great to start a season off with a win.”
Still, the Stormers will know they face a side that fights tooth and nail for every point, and while they may not have the stars, the Lions certainly have proved a few people wrong this past weekend.
Their challenge is now to ensure this was not a one-hit wonder, and follow it up with a similar performance.