Captain Burger Odendaal hailed the Lions’ defensive organisation and commitment for laying the platform for the comeback win over Irish side Munster on Saturday.
The Lions were delighted after securing their second successive home win in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship by stunning Munster in a come-from-behind 23-21 victory in Johannesburg.
While the visitors dominated possession and territory, opening up an early 14-0 lead, they struggled to put themselves out of touching distance. By the 66th minute, the score was 21-10 to Munster and from there the Lions were able to snatch the game.
Much of this was down to an incredible effort from the Lions on defence. According to the URC website, the Lions made a massive 146 tackles, missing only six for a 96% success rate. Loose forward Vincent Tshituka earned the man of the match award, ending as the best defender with 16 tackles.
“It think it was when we were defending for like 15 minutes in our 22. I don’t know how many phases it was, but I felt it was massive for us. They came with onslaught after onslaught and our defence stuck – we kept our line,” Odendaal said, when asked to explain the turning point in the match.
“They made two metres on one carry and then we pegged them back again. After that phase you could actually see that they were down on their knees… man down. We had a call that we wanted to lift the tempo again, and [even though] we didn’t really lift the tempo, we just tried to keep it there. I felt that was a big turning point for us.”
“It was something of a roller coaster for our defence,” Odendaal said. “When we went overseas we actually defended quite well. We then showed glimpses of good defence when we got back to South Africa. Something we brought up in team-talks was that we concede very easy tries, while we have to work really hard for our tries. I think the boys really worked for each other today.
“We said it was going to take an 85-minute effort and the guys just stuck. We didn’t give away easy tries… maybe a couple in the first half but I think the boys just really ground out at the end. It’s a massive defensive effort when the team can’t get through. You can almost see them getting frustrated and then lose the ball. That [was] massive for our defence.”
The win saw the Lions climb a place into 13th on the URC table. They are now nine points away from eighth-placed Ospreys, who round off the playoff places, and will next visit Ellis Park on Friday night.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images