Currie Cup

'Old dogs' Jannie and Willem show bite as Lions 'keep growing'

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Jannie du Plessis (Gallo Images)
Jannie du Plessis (Gallo Images)
  • The Lions' trio of "elders" - Jannie du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Jaco Kriel - were at the forefront of their side's sterling victory over the Cheetahs.
  • Head coach Ivan van Rooyen praised them for taking the lead in a week where all the players were primed to deliver a positive result in Bloemfontein.
  • Skipper Elton Jantjies believes the Lions are getting better weekly.

While there can be no quibbling that the Lions produced a sterling collective performance to beat the Cheetahs 39-23 in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening, one would be remiss not to highlight the influence of their trio of "golden oldies".

38-year-old tighthead Jannie du Plessis and 36-year-old lock Willem Alberts - both outstanding Springboks in their prime - were at the heart of a showing that combined power with flair and incisiveness.

Both veterans scored rare tries, with Du Plessis' sweeping showstopper one of the more memorable moments of the match.

The younger Jaco Kriel, younger but still highly experienced at 31, was bustling and notable, breaking out down the wing just after half-time for scrumhalf Andre Warner's vital first try.

"To see tight forwards scoring tries was quite something. It was really nice to see Jannie dot down," Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions' head coach, said with a chuckle afterwards.

AS IT HAPPENED | Cheetahs 23-39 Lions

"He admitted in the changeroom that he couldn't remember the last time he scored a try. It was great.

"The trio were like good red wine in this game. They really played well. We had a good week, the message was clear and everyone bought into the way we wanted to play.

"The elder guys really put their hand up."

Five tries attested to the Lions' attacking verve, but it was undeniable that for the first time in a while, the forwards stole the show.

"It was good sitting in the coach's box and seeing the players express themselves a bit. But the foundation was really laid up front, the forwards fronted up well," said Van Rooyen.

Pivot and skipper Elton Jantjies, who was typically reliable and inventive, was also excited by the variety shown by he and his team-mates.

"There's been real growth," he said.

"We're not focused on the past, we just focus weekly on getting better. I'm very excited about the direction we're going, we've grown tighter and know each other better.

"The leaders are making good decisions. When the coaches start talking to us about space, the players see it beforehand, which means we're really studying our game and getting better weekly."

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