Lions coach Swys de Bruin experienced some anxious moments before his team edged out the Waratahs 29-28 in their tense Super Rugby encounter at Ellis Park on Saturday.
With each team scoring four tries, the Lions held on to settle in a wildcard eighth position in the build-up to the play-offs.
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“After what happened on tour [to Australasia recently] we had a lot of trials and tribulations, and it was a challenge,” De Bruin said.
“We also had a bye, and that’s not always a good thing.”
He discussed dealing with the wrath of a spectator after choosing not to go for posts late in the game.
“You roll the dice, but there was a fan running in front of me shouting ‘are you mad, kick for the posts’, and that’s the emotional reaction you get,” he said.
“We were one point ahead and we didn’t exit well all day. It was one of our weaknesses, but when pressure builds, field possession becomes vital.”
Though he had to manage some players who were battling with illness, De Bruin lauded the impact from the bench, with reserve prop Dylan Smith playing a key role.
“Props Carlu Sadie and Johannes Jonker [on the bench] were battling with flu, so we had to box clever by deciding when to take them off and when to send them on. We just had to stay in the fight.”
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, meanwhile, bemoaned the high penalty count dished out by referee Egon Seconds, though he also credited the Lions for a sound scrumming display.
“We absorbed a lot of pressure and I felt some calls just didn’t go our way,” Gibson said.
“The penalty count was 13-3 against us, and the Lions put out some good scrum pressure, but with a penalty count like that against you, it’s tough to gain any momentum.”