Caretaker Lions coach Cash van Rooyen revealed the team dedicated their heroic 23-17 Super Rugby win over the Chiefs last weekend in Hamilton to their ill coach Swys de Bruin.
The Lions were rocked last week when De Bruin returned home just prior to the game due to illness, while their maligned defence coach Joey Mangalo also returned amid being found guilty on sexual harassment charges in Australia.
“We have a big family ethos within the squad and it’s literally like losing your dad,” said Van Rooyen.
“But I think the performance showed how much they care for him and how much we miss him, it was a good 80 minutes for him.”
While the Lions face another big one this Friday against the awesome Crusaders, Van Rooyen said the players have been boosted with their regular skipper Warren Whiteley’s return.
“His influence, his leadership and the way people respect him is quite special,” he said.
“It will be key to keep the looseforward combination together and I think it was the first time this year they played together,” he said.
While the Lions will be without hooker Malcolm Marx who returned home for a compulsory rest, flyhalf Gianni Lombard has also been ruled out with a knee injury.
“It’s been a tough week but the guys really managed to focus for 80 minutes and we started well which was key,” added Van Rooyen.
“The players put their bodies on the line defensively. There was a clear plan from the senior players and they stuck up their hands on the night.”
Van Rooyen said the key word is consistency and now they must ensure Kwagga Smith gets more game time behind him and Cyle Brink who came back from a lengthy knee injury and hopefully ‘he gets a couple of games in’.
Flyhalf Shaun Reynolds and hooker Jan-Henning Campher in the meantime were flown over to join up with the rest of the squad.