JOHANNESBURG – The Lions and Bulls still have two weeks to go before they kick off their 2020 Super Rugby campaigns, and thankfully so.
Because if truth be told, the respective coaches Ivan van Rooyen (of the Lions) and Pote Human (of the Bulls) have plenty of tweaking to do before they can kick-start their campaigns with confidence and belief this year will be better than the last. This much was evident from Sunday’s showing at the FNB Stadium when the teams clashed in the Superhero Sunday event, with the Bulls beating the Lions 40-35.
Both teams made numerous handling errors – both passing and catching – while the decision-making was at times also extremely poor. The Lions also conceded numerous penalties which resulted in them being pinned in their own half for much of the encounter.
Van Rooyen’s men did, however, take the few try-scoring chances that came their way and the new head coach will be pleased with that aspect of his side’s performance.
Both teams scored some wonderful tries, with the new-look Lions centre pairing of Dan Kriel and Duncan Matthews showing great promise – both men also scored tries – while new wing Jamba Ulengo was also full of running. He played a big part in one of Matthews’ two tries.
Courtnal Skosan – an almost forgotten former Springbok – also reminded everyone that he still possesses predatory-like characteristics, by leaping high and taking a cross-field kick by Elton Jantjies to help put his team ahead in the second half.
Veteran prop Jannie du Plessis played only the first half and did whwt was asked of him, while for the Bulls, former flyhalf Morne Steyn, who’s back from France for a second stint with the Pretoria club, showed he is still a classy operator. He varied his game well and kicked superbly at goal and would have got a few ticks behind his name from coach Human.
Also, Cornal Hendricks, playing out of position at 13, looked comfortable and certainly willing to give his new position a proper go – even if he did butcher an almost certain try by knocking the ball on late in the game which could have won the match for his team. He would redeem himself minutes later though – in the 77th minute in fact – by collecting a bouncing ball deep inside Lions territory to score the winning try.
After the Lions had raced into a 21-7 lead midway through the first half, converted tries by Manie Libbok and Johnny Kotze drew the Bulls level after half-time and from then on it was a ding-dong battle, with both teams scoring at regular intervals.
They may not have produced the most polished performances, but as we’ve come to expect of the Bulls and Lions of late, they sure know how to entertain and play some sparkling, attacking rugby. Now it’s just a case of fixing the handling, sharpening up the decision-making and strengthening the defence, and they’ll be good to go.