Lions coach Swys de Bruin paid special homage to the substitutes for their contribution in the team’s narrow 29-28 win over the Waratahs in a Super Rugby match at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Lions, who moved up to fourth on the South African Conference log after beating the Australian team, scored four tries on their way to their sixth win of the 2019 season, and now sit on 26 points, just three behind the log-leading Sharks, who have played a game more. The Johannesburg-based franchise needed a late penalty from one of the subs –flyhalf Shaun Reynolds – to beat the ‘Tahs, who scored four tries of their own in the tightly-contested match.
“The subs today made a massive difference, we did battle before the game with Carlu (Sadie) and his bit of flu and Johannes Jonker and those guys, so we had to box clever – when to take them off and when to keep them on – but, ja, it was a little present from above today because we had to just fight and fight, and they played well, hey … lots of guts, lots of character,” says De Bruin.
Another substitute who had a telling impact on the game in the latter stages was utility back Tyrone Green, who, apart from providing a threat with his pace on the right wing, also came in handy defensively. The 21-year-old came on in the second half for Courtnall Skosan, who was one of a few returnees to the side and one of the four different try-scorers for the Lions.
The Springbok half-back pairing of Ross Cronje and Elton Jantjies was also replaced after the restart, with Nic Groom and Reynolds taking their places. De Bruin later explained that he was not afraid to make changes in those crucial positions in a match that was so closely-contested because he backed his bench. “We’re a team; when the subs come on, it doesn’t matter for whom, no one is bigger than the game, you know. It was time for Shaun Reynolds, he did well when he came on and so did Tyrone Green, and so did, in fact, Wilhelm van der Sluys – was very good with his clean outs when he came on, and Marnus (Schoeman) was good, so no one is irreplaceable.”
The Lions, who finished as the runners-up in the last three consecutive seasons, now have five games left in the regular season, the first of which is another home game, against the Highlanders on Saturday.