Captain Elton Jantjies has lamented the Lions’ missed opportunities in their 19-16 loss to the Sharks in the Super Rugby Unlocked opener on Friday.
The Lions and Sharks kicked off South Africa’s domestic season with a closely-contested match at Kings Park, with the hosts ultimately clinging on for a three-point win.
That said, it could be argued that the Lions lost the match rather than the Sharks winning it. In the dying stages of the clash, the visitors had two chances to get more than a losing bonus point out of the game but they spurned both opportunities.
First, Jantjies hit the poles with a late penalty attempt which, if over, would have levelled the scores. And when they were awarded another penalty, the Lions skipper turned down the probable three points on offer, instead opting for an attacking scrum five metres from the tryline, only to have the referee award a scrum penalty to the Sharks which ensured the hosts came away with a victory.
At a virtual media conference post-game, when Jantjies was probed about his team’s questionable decision-making late in the game, he responded that it was a lesson well learned, but not the reason they had lost the game.
‘We always learn, but I feel that wasn’t the reason we lost this game. There were certain other areas in the game that we definitely need to improve on,’ Jantjies said.
‘Obviously we’ll have a review of that, in terms of certain leaders in the team and the collective decisions we make. But if we scored before half time, from that 5m maul, it would’ve been a different story. It’s just up to us to make the right decisions collectively and obviously from the management as well.
‘Both sides had equal opportunities,’ he explained. ‘They had one try, we had one try. I hit a penalty against the poles, which happens in rugby, and I think we had another penalty where we just didn’t kick it out. We had other moments, particularly at the set piece, where we needed to take responsibility, and those are crucial moments when you play a quality outfit like the Sharks.’
That said, Jantjies praised for his charges for the running the Sharks as close as they did, saying it’s a sign of improvement for the Lions to finish within three of a Sharks team that was the best in Super Rugby before the season was suspended due to Covid-19.
‘We’re positive about the way we’re going. In certain areas at the beginning of the season, before lockdown, we’ve 3/10 and we’re now 7/10 or 8/10, so that’s positive from our side. To finish within three of the Sharks, who were top in Super Rugby, shows that we’re doing the right thing.’
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