AUDIO: Lions still 'value' coach Swys
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: Zacharia de Bruin was welcomed back by the Lions with open arms on Monday.
De Bruin, affectionately known as Swys, and defence coach Joey Mongalo resumed their on-field duties with the Johannesburg-based franchise after a tumultuous fortnight.
De Bruin’s return brings to an end his absence as a result of stress-related medical condition, while Mongalo returns under the shadow of his ongoing legal battle in a Sydney court over a charge of indecent assault.
The duo departed the team in New Zealand on the eve of their 23-17 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton last month.
De Bruin confirmed in a recent interview with @rugby365com that he was doing “much better”.
And the players also welcomed him back on Monday, with lock seasoned Marvin Orie saying the team values the “experience and leadership” of De Bruin and Mongalo.
“Coach Swys is definitely one of the most important branches in this Lions set-up,” Orie told a media scrum, as the Lions started their build-up towards their Round 13 Super Rugby showdown with the Waratahs.
Orie said De Bruin and Mongalo both remain important members of the coaching staff and the entire union.
“It is really fantastic to have both of them back,” the lock said, adding: “Coach Swys is probably one of the best attacking coaches in the world.”
He denied that the departure of the duo from New Zealand negatively impacted on the team.
“It is what it is, everyone knows the situation.
“Luckily, on tour, when all of this happened, we got out captain Warren [Whiteley] back. We [also] had Malcolm [Marx] and Lionel [Mapoe]. There are a whole lot of senior players, with experience.
“I don’t think the focus has changed much with all these things that happened [off the field].
“Our job [as players] is to play rugby and we have a fantastic leadership group.
“I don’t think we were unsettled by this as much.”
Ivan van Rooyen, who took charge of the Lions during the Currie Cup competition last year, was the caretaker coach in De Bruin’s absence.
Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje said that while they we did miss “two quality coaches” on tour, praised Van Rooyen for the sterling job he did.
“I think the guys that stepped in did a fantastic job,” Cronje said.
“Cash [Ivan van Rooyen] stepped in and he was an absolute champion,” the scrumhalf said, adding: “Coach Swys was in touch [with the team] the whole time and coach Joey sent messages – so I felt like they were still there, just not physically present.”
The Lions are only two points off of a play-off positions, with the Stormers currently occupying the final wildcard position (eighth place).
The Lions have six Super Rugby regular season matches remaining, with four of those matches being played at Ellis Park.
Cronje said that the victory away to the Chiefs proved that the Lions still have the firepower to beat any team on their day.
“I still believe when this team is on song, we can take on the best and we can beat the best – it doesn’t matter where we play.”
By Josh Isaacson
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