Season’s best for Lions in 14-man win over Warriors

Coach Ivan van Rooyen lauds team's fighting spirit

19 May 2024 - 14:34
By Liam Del Carme
Lions midfielder Jordan Hendrikse was one of his team's star performers against Glasgow Warriors. It was his last home match for the Lions.
Image: Lee Warren (Gallo Images) Lions midfielder Jordan Hendrikse was one of his team's star performers against Glasgow Warriors. It was his last home match for the Lions.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen described his team's 44-21 United Rugby Championship (URC) victory over Glasgow Warriors at Ellis Park on Saturday as their best of the season.

Their 38-14 away win over Connacht in March was ground breaking but their second-half revival on Saturday with just 14 players after flank Ruan Venter was red-carded in the first half ticked different boxes.

“Because it was at home, it makes it more special,” said Van Rooyen. “We had a bit of a monkey on our backs. A result like this is maybe a corner that can be turned,” said the coach about the result and how it eased the pain of previous home defeats.

The Lions were ruthless as they punished the Warriors from deep scoring five tries from their half of the field to inflict on the visitors their biggest defeat of the season.

Having lost Venter to a red card in the 36th minute and No.8 Francke Horn to a yellow soon after, the Lions were staring down the barrel against the team that started the round top of the URC.

“Action plans, to be honest,” said Van Rooyen about the topic of conversation during the halftime break. “We knew they would put us under pressure. We had to get solutions on attack and defence, as well as set piece. Well done to the guys to show fight and character.”

Things didn't turn immediately in the Lions' favour after the break as Euan Ferrie dotted down for the visitors after 46 minutes. Forty-year-old stand-in captain Willem Alberts couldn't recall what he told his players behind the poles.

“I can't remember, I'm getting old now. My message at halftime to the guys was, 'listen, just go out and give your best to the team'.”

That they certainly did as they delivered arguably their most compelling 30-minute spell of the season.

Flank JC Pretorius, centre Jordan Hendrikse and scrumhalf Morne van den Berg maintained the energy and urgency they displayed from the start, while substitute halfback Sanele Nohamba soon left his mark on the game. A second try for Rabz Maxwane restored the Lions' lead before a sweeping Pretorius try thrilled the crowd and endowed the hosts with belief in equal measure.

Nohamba and Hanru Sirgel also scored tries leaving the Warriors thoroughly vanquished by the end.

“When we are with our backs to the wall we do free up a little bit mentally. Great character from the side,” the coach explained his team's turn around.

“You have to make a mental switch, because everyone has to work a little harder,” added Alberts.

The result, and the performance came as a crushing blow for Warriors coach Franco Smith.

He lamented his team's errors, not their methodology. “Everything went right for the Lions. The played some good rugby. Well done to them,” said Smith.

“I don't think anything went wrong. I just think good tries were scored from turnovers. We didn't finish our opportunities. We could have been more clinical this week and I take responsibility for that.”

Smith then made the point that the result may unburden his team. “Through this season a lot of expectation grew around this team. That is always a negative ingredient. After tonight that expectation is wiped away and that is fantastic.”