The unbeaten Lions are reaping the rewards of the zero tolerance approach their coach John Mitchell has taken with the team.
Mitchell’s men have learnt that he does not tolerate mediocrity and that a lack of judgement on the field could cost them a place in the match 22 the following week — just ask flanker Michael Rhodes who missed out on Saturday’s 17-10 victory against the Cheetahs because of a yellow card he received the previous week.
After five weeks of Absa Currie Cup rugby, the Johannesburg squad have not lost a match and kept their four point log lead over the Sharks intact by fending off a strong Cheetahs comeback in the most entertaining match of the weekend.
“It was a good performance and we knew that we had to repel a team that always tries to the end,” Mitchell said after the match.
“We were very committed in defence and I was very impressed with that.”Sometimes you have to win games through your defence which has probably not been our strength in the history of the Lions in recent years but it certainly is starting to become part of us and very important to us.”
The Lions suffered another injury blow at centre when Alwyn Hollenbach had to leave the field in the second half.
This could leave the team with a predicament in that department heading into their match against Western Province at Newlands as regular number 12 Doppies la Grange is also still on the road to recovery.
Mitchell said that a last resort would be to move winger Deon van Rensburg into midfield.
Following the loss in Johannesburg, the Cheetahs are now in the same boat as the Blue Bulls who also have two victories to their name after they secured an unconvincing 16-12 victory over the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday.
The men from Pretoria only managed to score one try in the match through Springbok wing Bjorn Basson on a night the Pumas could easily have won, had they not made as many unforced errors.
One of the big concerns for the Bulls is a cheek bone injury flank Deon Stegmann picked up during the contest while skipper Dewald Potgieter had to undergo surgery to his nose after breaking it for the third time this season.
The Blue Bulls jumped from last position on the log to sixth after Griquas secured a 32-18 victory over the Leopards.
The men from Kimberley are now placed third after Province slipped-up on a soaking wet pitch against the Sharks.
The Sharks recorded a 21-19 victory in Cape Town thanks to a superb night with the boot by flyhalf Frederic Michalak.
The former French international converted four penalties and three drop goals to give his side their fourth victory of the competition.
Province coach Allister Coetzee was understandably disappointed after the match, considering that his men were in control of proceedings for most of the match.
“We played most of the game in their half and played most of the rugby. In the end a crucial penalty cost us and it is a lesson learnt for the players,” Coetzee told his team’s website.
Province next face the Lions at Newlands on Friday while the match between the Blue Bulls and Griquas will be just as important as the competition starts heating up. — Sapa