The young Western Province team had had their backs to the wall after two defeats and had shown character to secure their narrow win over the Lions at Newlands on Friday.
Speaking after his team had edged a hard-fought 28-26 victory, Province head coach Allister Coetzee said the team were moving in the right direction.
"The players were hurting in the last couple of weeks. That's why this game showed the character of the team," said the coach.
With Schalk Burger on Springbok duty, François Louw at Bath, Duane Vermeulen injured and Nick Köster having to withdraw through injury before the captain's practice, the loose forward trio had already been under pressure and losing Pieter Louw and Siya Kolisi during the game had been disruptive.
"With the loose forward trio in disarray, still pulling this one off was a huge win for us," the coach believed.
"I think it's important to note that we played with four under 20 players out there, and two under 21 players, and we've beaten a Super 15 side.
"We're in a process of developing, making sure that we bring players through who can play Super 15 rugby next year when we need the depth. This is the exercise we're going through now.
"These are youngsters. They don't earn big salaries. They play for the Province jersey!
"But there are things we still need to fix," Coetzee said, describing the scrumming as fantastic but clearly unhappy with the line-out performance.
The coach did point out however that the injuries to Louw and Kolisi meant the loss of two line-out jumpers and had left the team with three short loose forwards.
"But no excuses - we need to improve at line-out time."
The team's attacking play remained a work in progress and needed to improve, but the slippery ball had made conditions difficult.
"The slippery ball is difficult to control. Because it's wet, it's difficult to get the ball wide, so you don't play with width. We're not going to fight the elements," said the coach.
"Attack is a fluid thing," Coetzee explained, "it's not a system like defence, like the scrum, which are all system driven."
The defence had again been outstanding, despite conceding two tries from turnovers - one when JJ Engelbrecht threw the ball away under pressure and the other an interception of a long pass by Dewaldt Duvenage deep inside the Lions' 22.
Coetzee was happy with his team's kicking game and though there were occasions when players needing to find touch had not kicked the ball into touch, Province had succeeded in dominating territory. Again as in previous matches, scrumhalf Duvenage had executed excellently in his tactical kicking.
The coach said the breakdown battle had been even, which he believed an achievement considering they were up against players like Cobus Grobbelaar, Derick Minnie, Josh Strauss and Alwyn Hollenbach, all of whom were outstanding on the ground, and with the Province backrow disrupted by injury.
A few unnecessary penalties had been conceded at breakdown on attack, however, for infringements such as side entry.
Coetzee said flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis was "doing a wonderful job at this point in time...he's doing the job that is required".
"At least we know our flyhalf number six can play at this level!" quipped the coach.
"For a young flyhalf, under pressure again against a top side, his kicking was outstanding, especially the last one - it was quite a long one to kick at Newlands. His composure said a lot about the boy at his age.
"We want him to give direction on the field. There's a still a long way to go but he's progressing well. He's kicking brilliantly but there are other things in his game we'd like to see him improve even more."
Injuries were becoming a concern after a relatively injury-free first four weeks, with Louw's ribs likely to keep him out for two or three weeks, and injuries to Köster (bicep), Kolisi (hamstring) and Danie Poolman (shoulder) also a worry.
WP vice captain Dewaldt Duvenage agreed with his coach that Province had played most of the rugby but that this was not reflected on the scoreboard until after halftime.
The Lions had scored two tries against the run of play but the winning of the territorial battle had been crucial because the pressure exerted by Province had paid off later in the game.
Duvenage felt the team's belief in themselves - and specifically, tightening up their game with better guarding of possession - had facilitated their second half comeback to win the game after the Lions had led 17-9 at halftime.
by Len Kaplan at Newlands
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