AUDIO: 'Special' breed of new Lions
REACTION: Despite being depleted by national Springbok call-ups and departures after a disappointing Super Rugby season, the Golden Lions showed tremendous fighting spirit during their win over Pumas.
It was not one of their best performances as they found themselves down 21-37 with 15 minutes to go. However, the Lions’ character, great finishing prowess by wing Madosh Tambwe and a converted try from flyhalf Shaun Reynolds steered them to a victory.
The Lions fielded a very inexperienced team, and it was evident in their performance. Their backline, which had just one player older than 24 – scrumhalf and captain Ross Cronje (29), was disjointed and failed to produce a lethal attack in the first half.
Speaking to reporters after the game on Saturday head coach Ivan van Rooyen praised his team’s efforts and character to engineer the remarkable comeback.
“I think the team showed great character. You can see we did not play for a while, so we were still rusty.
“Nonetheless, I’m ecstatic about the comeback especially with the youngsters on the field,” Van Rooyen told reporters.
“Belief certainly sparked the comeback and also getting the youngsters all excited about the opportunity – it was said 15-16 minutes to go so it was all about testing our character.
“We certainly felt that one or two things started working our way and decided to back that. I think that’s when thing got better, ” he added.
One youngster who truly put up his hand was the Democratic Republic of Congo-born Tambwe. The wing scored four tries during the dramatic win, a repeat of his accolade he produced against the Stormers in a Super Rugby round-robin match in 2018.
Commenting on the 22-year-old’s performance, the coach said: “He is a great finisher, good pace, tall, he is special,”
The Lions have a bye this weekend before they play Western Province in Cape Town on July 27 and Van Rooyen believes that the bye will allow his team to focus on improving all aspects of their game.
“It is not ideal [the bye],” Van Rooyen said.
“But it’s a week where we can keep on grinding with the youngsters, keep on working on defence, keep on working on the attack and our systems so in terms of the next game. It is not ideal, but in terms of the season I think it is good,”
By Josh Isaacson