Swys defends tactics to change Lions front row midway through the game

22 October 2017 - 13:23 By Craig Ray
Swys de Bruin (Assistant Coach) during the Xerox Golden Lions team announcement at Emirates Airline Park Media Centre on August 10, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Swys de Bruin (Assistant Coach) during the Xerox Golden Lions team announcement at Emirates Airline Park Media Centre on August 10, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Golden Lions coach Swys de Bruin defended his unusual decision to change his entire front row 33 minutes into Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final loss to Western Province at Newlands.

Props Jacobie Adriaanse and Ruan Dreyer and hooker Malcolm Marx entered the fray with WP leading 6-5 in a match they would eventually win 19-5.

De Bruin’s explanation of what were gamesmanship tactics was hazy‚ especially as Dreyer and Marx were both originally named to start the match.

“What happened was that Dreyer was battling with a rib injury for most of the week‚” De Bruin said.

“The doc had to inject him and I felt I didn’t want to expose him to that initial pressure in the game.

“Malcolm has been an absolute folk hero for the Springboks so the plan was to see how the game goes and bring him on later. That was all it was.”

The decision didn’t make any obvious improvements to the Lions side who were edged in a tight battle.

In fact‚ the first scrum with the three changes resulted in a penalty for WP and eventually led to a try by prop Wilco Louw just before the break‚ which gave the home team a crucial edge going in to halftime.

The Lions’ tactics also puzzled WP coach John Dobson.

“It was obviously an old trick we saw the Sharks use in the 1990s‚” Dobson said.

“Even the Lions team sheet that we got just before kick-off was different to the one that ran on the field.

“We half expected they would be up to something‚ but we handled it reasonably well when Marx came on.

"He got one steal and made one good carry. He is a great rugby player and truthfully‚ if I were a Lions supporter I would like to see him on the field all the time.”

De Bruin though stuck to his line that it was a spur of the moment decision and not a tactic that backfired badly.

He dismissed claims that it was a panic call to change the front row less than halfway into the match and denied that there was any pressure from SA Rugby to keep Marx on the bench.

“That’s your opinion‚ I’ve just explained to you why we did it‚” De Bruin bristled.

“Robbie Coetzee had a very good season and is a great player.

“Malcolm is a top international player and is one of‚ if not‚ the best hooker in the world‚ so we have to treat him right. I know his mental state and it was a decision made between all of us.

“There was no pressure from SA Rugby not to play him. It was my final decision.”

WP will travel to Durban to play against the Sharks in the final next weekend after the latter side beat the Blue Bulls 37-27 in Durban in Saturday’s first semi-final.


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