Lions: ‘We proved that we could do it’




The Lions head off on a four-match Super 14 tour of Australasia on Monday with the firm believe that they can add a few more victories on the road to the back-to-back wins they had at home against New Zealand rivals.

After beating the defending champion Crusaders 9-3 in a tryless, defence orientated encounter at Ellis Park at the weekend – a win that followed an equally gripping 11-6 win over the Highlanders the previous week – the Lions’ stand-in captain Ernst Joubert said the team was “looking forward to travel”.

The Lions start their Australasian campaign against the high flying Western Force outfit in Perth on Saturday, then head to Brisbane to meet the Reds, before crossing the Tasman Sea where they will face the Blues and Chiefs.

But the wins over the Highlanders and Crusaders on successive weekends have given the team the belief that they can also win on the road.

And further good news for the team is that Springbok fly-half and regular captain Andr’ Pretorius is in the running to be named in the team for the opening match against the Force – which ended their South African tour with back-to-back wins against the Stormers and Bulls.

While the Force showed they are – just like the Lions – far better than the pre-season predictions suggested they would be, it is the Lions which perhaps have produced the biggest upsets.

Unlike the Force, who are littered with Wallaby stars, the Lions have had only a sprinkling of international players to call upon – apart from the fact that their captain was sidelined with a hamstring injury – and have relied on guts and youthful resilience against their more fancied rivals.

But, like Joubert said at the weekend, his team knew it would be just a matter of time before they pulled of a big win.

That happened at the weekend, when they defended like Trojans in the face of a fierce Crusaders onslaught and kept the defending champions tryless for the first time in years.

“It’s awesome, I’m so proud of the boys,” and obviously elated Joubert said.

“I think we proved that we are a competitive side. The boys stuck in there for 80 minutes, but all credit to the Crusaders. They asked a lot of questions, but we kept them out and with the boot of Louis Strydom we managed to get the four points,” he added.

Asked about his team’s defensive effort, Joubert said they believed in the structures put in place.

“The guys stuck to the basics, they made the tackles and we pulled it through.”

Asked about the Australasian trip, Joubert said the team is positive about the venture abroad.

“We just have to stay positive now, we’ve got the points,” he said.

“We proved that we can do it.

“We’ve got a young side and the guys are looking forward to travel and we can’t wait till Monday.”

Lock forward Cobus Grobler, one of the many unheralded stars in the side, also said the players now believe they can win some games on the road.

“Our first game [against the Waratahs in Round One – a 25-16 defeat] was a disappointment. We felt we could have done better,” Grobler said.

“But we picked it up and we’ve had two good wins now. However, there’s still a lot of work. We’re just happy that we’re on the road now.”

Coach Eugene Eloff also praised his team’s defensive effort against the Crusaders.

“To be on your line for 15, 20 minutes and to keep them out, it really showed character,” Eloff said.

Asked which individuals he felt stood out for him on the day, he was quick to point out that it was “was a 32-man effort” – the players on the field, the players on the bench and the management.

“They all just wanted it badly,” he said.

The touring team, apart from the inclusion of the captain, Andr’ Pretorius, also has the name of injured Springbok loose forward Jacques Cronj’ on the list. However, injured Bok wing Ashwin Willemse has not recovered and won’t make the trip.

Lions tour squad: Ernst Joubert, Doppies la Grange, Gordon Gilfillan, Kenny Mackenzie, Ethienne Reynecke, Anton van Zyl, Bertus Smit, Willie Wepener, Jaco Pretorius, Jano Vermaak, Andr’ Pretorius, Jaque Fourie, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Louis Strydom, Enrico Januarie, Wylie Human, Jannie Boshoff, Louis Ludik, Jacques Cronj’, Cobus Grobler, Franco van der Merwe, Cobus Grobbelaar, Heinke van der Merwe, Willem Alberts, Earl Rose, Brian Mujati.

365 Digital

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