Lions firmly in Hurricanes' camp
Johannesburg - With a home final still a possibility, Lions coach Swys de Bruin made no secret that he was hoping for a Hurricanes win this coming weekend over the Crusaders to hopefully give the Lions a chance of a second consecutive home Super Rugby final.
According to the supersport.com website, De Bruin joked after his 40-23 win over the Jaguares in the quarter-finals that he would send Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd a message of support for the game - especially as the pair had coached together at the Sharks academy - to hopefully help with the motivation of beating the rampant Crusaders, who are favourites to retain their title.
De Bruin wouldn’t go into too many specifics or look too far ahead, acknowledging the Lions have a tough task against the Waratahs this coming weekend in the semi-final, but praised his team for their performance.
“Home ground advantage is vital that is why we just have to keep pushing game by game and then hoping that the Hurricanes have a massive game,” he said.
“You know why I'm so pleased and proud, because there was a time when our whole spine was out of it. Our captain wasn’t there, Malcolm was injured, we lost (Jaco) Kriel and the other guys put their hands up. They took flack and criticism but I want to compliment the coaching staff. I want to compliment the coaching staff for how they just work and work and even more so I want to compliment the senior players for how they got the brotherhood going in those tough times - ignore what you hear, guys we are going to make it. Stick together. I’ve got respect for these bunch of brothers to fight and fight and make these semis, considering where we were.”
His praise went further to Elton Jantjies, whose critics he told to keep quiet after the way the flyhalf played in the quarter-final.
“Ja I’m so pleased for Elton. He doesn’t lie down, he keeps on going. And he is a fighter for the team. Half-time he just stood up and had another good game. So these guys who criticise him so much must relax now.”
The Lions have an obvious home ground advantage for the weekend but that means little on the day according to De Bruin, who believes the Waratahs are one of the best attacking teams in the competition.
“They attack a bit different, their strength and the way they attack from the edges is a bit different. They play from edge to edge a lot and vary a lot with the kicks where the Jaguares don’t kick so much. What the Waratahs do as well, they have a lot of international players as well and have cool heads. Like against the Highlanders they were down and out and just came back. The yellow card helped them. But we anticipate a Waratahs team that will be up there. They scored 73 tries or 72 - where are the stats guys? - so they are third, and they know how to find your tryline. But with the defensive effort I saw today at stages I’m happy.
“Look they are very similar – this (Jaguares) back three are very dangerous and we didn’t give them many chances to counter attack. The one or two we gave them they almost punished us, so it is a matter of killing their space and making sure they don’t get enough time to counter attack. We will have to up the tempo though, at stages I thought it was a slow pace and the air is thin up here, so we have to up.”
While the Lions won the corresponding league fixture 29-0 in Sydney, De Bruin was taking nothing away from that game and knows the 80 minutes this weekend will be very different.
“They are a very good side and that day was one of the perfect games for us and everything went our way. Every single bounce of the ball. It was just a great game for us and they will be up for it. They will want to come and rectify their mistakes as well.
“We said from the word go it doesn’t matter who we play we just want to take it hurdle for hurdle and now it is the Waratahs, so I’m looking forward to the game.”
The Lions are expecting a big home crowd push for the match and will name their side on Thursday.
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