Reserves sparked Lions' victory
Lions interim coach Johan Ackermann believes his substitutes snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in their 37-32 win over the Melbourne Rebels at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The tourists led the Lions by five points with less than 10 minutes left when replacement loose forward Jaco Kriel scored in the 73rd minute to swing the game in the hosts' favour.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies sealed the victory with a last minute penalty conversion to hand his side their third victory from 15 matches.
“We almost lost it but luckily we got a couple of calls going our way in the end there and the boys kept some composure,” said Ackermann.
“I think our reserves did really well. They need to get credit, those guys that came on brought the energy that we needed.
“It felt like it all went flat in the second half and we needed that energy and those guys did really well to step up and made the difference for us.”
The Lions were in a dominating position at the half-time break—leading the visitors 24-7—but the momentum swung in the Rebels' favour in the second half.
Lions captain Joshua Strauss said their dip in the second half had been a problem the whole season, with the players losing concentration.
“I think it was a lack of concentration especially on defence. We also didn't follow our structures. We would make a call and wouldn't run it so again it is just concentration,” said Strauss.
“It's been tough and we've made it very hard for ourselves during the season and we did it again in the second half but it is really nice to pull off this last win at home.”
Strauss thanked fans for their commitment despite their poor winning record at home.
“Thanks to everyone that came out even though we were losing,” he said.
“We are still playing for pride and for each other and I think it was a good game.”
Ackermann said the team's second-half slump was a due to a combination of poor one-on-one defence and a lack of good communication.
“I think it is one thing that we will see in our post-match review is that the individual tackles that were missed and that comes down to concentration,” Ackermann said.
“I think it was just the communication because there were some messages that went on and players didn't execute it well enough.”
The Lions will next travel across the Jukskei River to play the Bulls in their final Super Rugby match of the season.
While playing the Bulls at home was a daunting task, Ackermann said it was a battle his side would relish.
“It is always tough between the Lions and the Bulls and we would like to finish off well next week,” Ackermann said.
“We are a proud team and they are playing for a spot in the play-offs. The Sharks probably didn't do us any favours by wounding them, so they will be a difficult team to beat.”