The Blues refused to be intimidated by the high-altitude conditions, coach Tana Umaga revealed at the weekend, after they earned a 38-35 victory over the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Lions led 21-10 at the break and they were 35-24 ahead with less than 10 minutes to play, but the visitors stunned the 14 032 strong crowd by scoring the winning try after the hooter.
“We talked a bit about the altitude coming over here and the travel was a bit interrupted, but this group doesn’t make excuses. It is what it is,” said Umaga, a former All Black skipper.
“For some guys it was a first run at Ellis Park at altitude but they said they can’t change it. So they just went out and worked for it.”
In terms of their performance, Umaga admitted it was error-ridden though he felt the heart and character they showed meant it rated among their best in his tenure to date.
“We certainly didn’t make it easy for ourselves. The Lions didn’t make it easy for us either,” he said.
“Our plan was that we wanted to stay in touch, the players wanted it … they showed the hunger and one could see it in the second half.”
Dominating possession in the second half, the Blues kept pushing forward, and the Lions’ defence eventually wilted after the waves and waves of attack.
“We kept pushing them. From a coach’s point of view we shouldn’t have played as much rugby as we did, but they really wanted it that bad,” Umaga said.
“The Lions have meant a lot to South African rugby with the way they have performed and are enjoying the way they are playing. That is something that we are also trying to do because that’s what the game is all about.”