Lions' SA streak ended by 'small margins'
Cape Town - Lions coach Swys de Bruin says it is important to take defeat "on the chin" after his side's 31-24 Super Rugby loss to the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
The result not only puts the Lions' position on top of the South African Conference under threat, but it also ends a 21-match undefeated streak against South African opposition that goes all the way back to 2015.
Having welcomed back Warren Whiteley, Malcolm Marx and Ruan Combrinck, the Lions looked good for a 22nd straight win in a local derby when they had a 21-11 lead in the second half.
The Sharks, fighting for their own playoff aspirations, fought back and eventually secured a stunning win with a late Lwazi Mvovo interception that has breathed new life into their tournament charge.
Speaking after the match, De Bruin accepted defeat and tried to look for the positives, but he knows that nothing is guaranteed yet in terms of the playoffs.
The Lions are still top of the Conference for now, but they are just three points ahead of the Jaguares having played a game extra.
They have just one match left - a clash against the Bulls in Johannesburg on the final weekend of fixtures - and top spot and a home quarter-final is now out of their hands.
"We had scoring chances that we didn't use," De Bruin explained.
"21 games. To lose it the way we did is not nice, but I've been in this game a long time and I know that you have to take it on the chin and move on."
There were positives, De Bruin added.
"The guys that were out for a long time played well. We kept the ball well ... there were positives," he said.
"It was an away game and we go home with the bonus point. We're still top of the log but we know we've got to fight for that.
"It was a game of margins and it went their way ... there's not much you can say."
The Sharks, meanwhile, are in Cape Town this weekend for a clash against the struggling Stormers at Newlands.
They remain third in the South African Conference and ninth overall, three points behind the Rebels, who occupy the final wildcard playoff spot.