Johannesburg – Winning the 2015 Currie Cup title was the culmination of three years of hard work and soul searching as the Golden Lions claimed a 32-24 victory over Western Province in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Ending the year on a high with a perfect season in which they won all of their 12 matches is a far cry from the low point they reached at the end of 2012.
The Lions had gone from 2011 Currie Cup champions to the Super Rugby wilderness two years later and have now exorcised those demons with the coveted gold cup back at Ellis Park.
Although Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann deemed the season a success even without the silverware, he could not help but reflect on the last three years.
“A lot of things went through my mind today before the game considering where we came from and seeing this team growing, seeing guys become men,” Ackermann said after the match.
“I really care for them and they care for each other, I just saw a group of guys not willing to lie down.”
Last year the Lions fell short of winning the title when they bowed the knee to Province in Cape Town, but they made sure to cover all their bases this season.
Winning all of their regular season matches and manoeuvring past a determined Cheetahs side in the semi-final earned them a place in the final.
Ackermann praised all the players that contributed to their success and for the way they put last year’s disappointment behind them.
“You can start at number-one and go through to number-22 and then there are guys that didn’t play today that had to fight to get where they are,” he said.
“It makes it quite satisfactory that we got over last year’s hurdle and going one step further with the Currie Cup in the change room.”
Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff missed with his first two penalty goal attempts which brought a sense of déjà vu.
In last year’s final Boshoff missed with five shots at goal including the final kick at the death that could have won them the title.
However, Ackermann said the team kept their faith in Boshoff and made sure he did not have to carry the burden of having to clinch the title with his goal kicking.
“We were quite confident, and we felt quite confident that the team will back him, the players know that we will win today by scoring tries and not going for a 9-6 win,” he said.
“We said we will play positive and score tries, and we did that when necessary and we said we would not put the pressure on Marnitz as a kicker to win the game for us.”
While Boshoff had a shaky start he recovered well slotting a long-range penalty to give his side a 15-point cushion.