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Lions serve some humble pie

The Lions have served the South African rugby public some humble pie by producing their best-ever season after a year in the Super Rugby wilderness.

One of the most iconic scenes in Hollywood cinema history is the Oscar-winning 'Good Will Hunting', wherein the character played by Matt Damon outsmarts a cocky, arrogant Harvard student in a battle of wits to gain the attention of a girl and her telephone number.

Damon mocks his nemesis at the end by showing him the girl's number written on a napkin and states: “I got her number, how do you like them apples?!” it is a phrase that we as the South African rugby public should heed and enjoy a healthy slice of humble pie served by the Lions Super Rugby class of 2014.

Damon’s character and the Lions share this anecdote and philosophy based on their startling similarities in their respective fields to their eventual catharsis.

Supporters outside of greater Johannesburg didn’t give them a snowball's chance in hell at making any substantial difference to their previously bleak future; both are seen as rough, unrefined and even lacking the mental strength to mount an attempt to dig themselves out of the hole either created by their own poor choices or by the circumstances of fate.

The Lions have won admirers across the Southern Hemisphere due to their exploits on the rugby pitch this season, their willingness to always punch above their weight, never say die attitude, attacking verve and mindset with ball in hand and team dynamic that defines unity in its entirety is an amazing comeback to witness.

Coach Johan Ackermann deserves an immense amount of credit and then some for guiding a squad and union for that matter, rocked by financial losses and a substantial exodus of players due to their acrimonious relegation from Super Rugby in 2012.

They have epitomised what is so magnificent and humbling about South Africa- the ability to find a way, a means to survive when all hope seems lost. Friday night’s win against the Rebels was their sixth win, the most wins they have had in a season since 2007 in arguably the most gruelling and competitive Super Rugby season in recent memory, and they did it with a moral resolve not often seen in the modern professional sporting era.

The Lions have and continue to play a brand of rugby that is fearless and it is an absolute pleasure to watch them defy critics.

Their game plan is a simple yet effective blueprint we are all taught from the age of six playing barefoot on cold dewy Saturday mornings- make sure your set piece is solid and earn the right to go wide.

I believe their set piece and in particular their scrum is one of the best in the competition. Where the Lions need a bit more work is in their attack, they don’t always pay homage in earning the right to go wide and drift across field with no one taking the responsibility of straightening.

This however can be put right on the training fields at practice and adjustments to these little intricacies if done well will make them potential Currie Cup winners later in the year.

Their defence has been sound which reflects the attitude within their camp and that is implicit trust in one another.

They have a great mix of hard grafters in their side the likes of Jaco Kriel, Schalk Van Der Merwe and lead impeccably by Warren Whitely, and in Marnitz Boshoff they have a kicking ace with an eye for attacking the advantage line, the best of both worlds.

This Lions team have won my absolute respect and admiration for their season and the other South African teams can certainly take a page or two out of not only their playbook but their character.

By Brandon Going

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