The Lions will take the positives from a solid performance against top-class Leinster, after putting their opponents to work hard this weekend for a 21-13 victory in their United Rugby Championship game at Dublin’s RDS Arena.
Lions captain Jaco Kriel was delighted with the fight his charges showed and pleased with the way they stood up to a side he claimed was comparable to the Crusaders in Super Rugby.
“If you look at Leinster coming out of Super Rugby, you can compare them to a Crusader side that likes to speed things up. Those early lineouts caught us by surprise and showed us how they want to play,” explains Kriel.
“After that I spoke to the vice-captain and I told him it is a huge step forward because we are used to the lineout crowds and the slowing down of the lineout in South Africa, and this is just a whole next level.
“But it’s good, the guys have to experience it and you have to adapt, you have to react faster. So playing against a world-class team like Leinster was a huge learning curve for all the guys.”
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Coach Ivan van Rooyen was also pleased with the team’s commitment and the way they competed against an in-form team on their home turf, especially after a disappointing run of results in SA last month.
“We are very proud of our physicality at the set time and we showed that in the game,” said Van Rooyen.
“We came here with a clear plan of how we wanted to play and put pressure on Leinster, and I think we did that in a lot of patches in the game.
“So I’m proud of the character and proud of the way we fought for 80 minutes, but I think they still won the little moments that weighed against us in the end.”
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The Lions were also buoyed by the performance of their young squad, with 19-year-old Ruan Venter and 20-year-old Quan Horn impressing some inexperienced players for the first time against a team of this caliber.
Scrum half Morne van den Berg also enjoyed an electric game and was praised by the Irish media after the game.
“The proudest thing for me was that we completed the game with a lot of young players, and seeing how they reacted and that they can play at that pace was very encouraging for us,” said Van Rooyen.
“He (Van Den Berg) is exceptional, his one-on-one ability to beat you is absolutely world class. I am very proud of his achievement.”