Ivan van Rooyen says the Golden Lions made big strides in this year’s Currie Cup despite being knocked out in the semi-finals by the Sharks on Saturday.
The Lions went into the match as heavy underdogs, and with the Sharks leading 23-3 early in the second half, the result looked to be going the way the bookies and pundits had predicted.
The visitors, however, came storming back to narrow the gap to 26-24 before the Sharks scored a late try to seal an enthralling 33-24 win.
Van Rooyen said he couldn’t fault the effort of his charges.
‘It was a massive challenge playing a semi-final away, especially in Durban with the wind pumping like that. When we get 5kph winds back in Joburg, we think it’s a storm.
‘When there were two points in it, we were quietly confident. The Sharks handled the pressure well in the last 10 minutes, but I’m very proud of my guys.’
The Lions boss commended his team’s resilience in the face of fierce Sharks dominance.
‘We always strive hard for work ethic, honesty and character. We had a moment to make a decision to either lie down or stand up and fight, and I am proud of the guys for standing up.’
While the Lions’ senior teams ended the season without any silverware, Van Rooyen insisted the union had made gains.
‘Obviously this defeat hurts, but for the union it was a massive step forward. I think we used up to about 13 U21 players [in the senior team] this season. We finished the game today with five U21s on the field. The result is disappointing, but we took a big step forward.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images