Lions’ ‘emotions were high’ earning late bonus point against Cardiff

They leave it late to earn a bonus point win over Cardiff

12 May 2024 - 14:22
By Liam Del Carme
Emmanuel Tshituka of the Lions scores the try that seals their bonus point in their win over Cardiff at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi (Gallo Images) Emmanuel Tshituka of the Lions scores the try that seals their bonus point in their win over Cardiff at Ellis Park on Saturday.

A lack of accuracy delayed the Lions' charge to a bonus-point win over Cardiff in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Lions made heavy weather of beating down Cardiff's challenge but their skies brightened as flank Emmanuel Tshituka raced clear to earn them a valuable bonus point in the last minute of the game when he rounded off his second try from long range.

Coach Ivan van Rooyen said his team at times lacked accuracy and that they weren't clinical enough when opportunity beckoned.

“There were times we could have been bolder but when you lack accuracy then it can be a huge source of frustration,” the coach explained of their at times conservative approach in the first half.

Apart from bagging five points to stay in top eight contention in the URC the Lions gave themselves a rallying call. Fullback Quan Horn played in his 50th game, while the evergreen Willem Alberts turned 40.

“Knowing it was Quan's 50th game and Willem's 40th birthday we huddled in the middle before the kickoff,” explained man of the match flank JC Pretorius. “Emotions were high because we had to make the game special for Quan and Willem.”

Horn scored an opportunist try when he spotted space and captain Marius Louw obliged by booting the ball downfield for him to chase down.

Alberts keeps rolling back the years and his barrel-chested, whole and warm-hearted presence is keenly felt.

“The Bone Collector! Seeing grown men laying on the ground after his big hits says something about his commitment,” Pretorius said grinning.

“People only see about 10% of what he is about on social media,” said Van Rooyen about Alberts' larger than life online persona. Impromptu dance routines form part of his online staple.

“It is difficult to believe he is 40. He gets around, he's physical and brings leadership. It is a pleasure and an honour to have him in our team.”

While Alberts still brings a keenly felt physical edge, Pretorius has proved a menace at the ruck and a real handful in broken play. He has Kwagga Smith qualities about the way he conducts his on field affairs.

The former Blitzbok has had to bide his time at the Lions but he now regularly ranks among their most influential operators.

“At the Sevens I played all the time and here I played now and then,” said Pretorius. “I had to be patient and work harder. But that is the thing about a high performance environment, you can't get comfortable. You have to give your best to the team week in and week out.”

Pretorius' ability to exact steals at the ruck has lengthened the Lions' claws in defence.

“Some guys dream of running and stepping, I dream of stealing ball. Wherever I can make a contribution and lifting the energy I'll do so,” said Pretorius.

The Lions though will have to improve almost immeasurably if they are going to sustain their top eight challenge against log leaders Glasgow Warriors at Ellis Park next weekend.

Coach Van Rooyen is emboldened by the fact that they still have a chance of sneaking into the play-offs. “We are still alive. I know it is going to be tough for us, looking at the other results,” said Van Rooyen whose team is placed 10th and trail eighth placed Benetton by four points. “We probably need 11 points out of the last three games. There is a lot of work and a lot of things to be fixed. We got five points and are alive and breathing.”

Next week they host the Warriors before closing their league commitments against the Stormers in Cape Town in a fortnight.

They have a few work-ons, especially considering they will be up against teams in the top five.

“We'll have to sharpen our set pieces. We saw how Glasgow fought back against the Bulls. It is going to take a big effort from us. We're alive and it gives us hope.”