Swys 'relieved' with 'sweet' Lions win
Cape Town - It was far from a clinical performance, but Lions coach Swys de Bruin is satisfied with his side's 26-19 win over the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday.
In what was De Bruin's first match as head coach since taking over from Johan Ackermann, the Lions were not at their best.
There were still periods of the attacking enterprise that has been a hallmark of their game in recent seasons, but struggles at the lineout as well as an inability to look after the ball meant that the Sharks were always in the contest.
The visitors didn't have their best day at the office either as they lost six scrums on their own ball, slipped 29 tackles and were also let down by their handling at crucial stages.
Despite the struggles of both sides, it was the Lions who came out on top in a match that certainly did not lack in entertainment value.
The result means that the Lions have now beaten the Sharks in all of the last seven Super Rugby matches between the sides, and De Bruin acknowledged afterwards that there was something sweet about getting one over the men from KwaZulu-Natal.
"Warren (Whiteley) is from the Bluff there (in Durban), I lived there for 12 years and I think Rudolf Straeuli (Lions CEO) still owns half of Durban," De Bruin joked.
"It is very sweet to beat the Sharks, I must admit."
Going into the match, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Lions and how they would gel under their new head coach.
The concerns were intensified by a lack of match preparation leading up to the start of the tournament, with a friendly against the Bulls their only public outing.
De Bruin acknowledged that there had been worries over the lack of preparation, and while he described his side as "rusty", he has now been given a solid base to launch from as the 2016 and 2017 tournament runners-ups prepare to host the Jaguares this weekend.
"Very pleased and relieved … that’s the first reaction," De Bruin said.
"We did go in a bit underdone into this game. That was the long discussion we had with our leadership group.
"We asked for character and it came through."
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect for De Bruin and the Lions would have been their defensive performance in the last 10-15 minutes of the match.
The Sharks, with their tails up, hit the hosts hard with a series of attacks that threatened numerous times to get them over the line.
The Lions, though, found something from somewhere and their defence held firm as first substitute loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani and then Marnus Schoeman forced crucial turnovers.
"The last bit, when Hacjivah came on and stole that ball … for him as a youngster, he doesn’t realise how huge that was and the same as Marnus Schoeman when he was under the sticks when he got hands on the ball," said De Bruin.
"If you can win those small margin calls then we’re happy."