Lions are through, but are they good enough?
CURRIE CUP REPORT: The Golden Lions eased into the play-offs with a bonus-point 33-21 win over the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday.
However, the question is whether this Lions team can stop the Currie Cup ‘juggernauts’ – Western Province and the Sharks?
The Lions, playing the game at a high pace and with their trademark expansive approach, was simply too powerful for the Pumas.
However, the visitors were not as accurate as they needed to be and their discipline also let them down times.
They deserve their place in the semifinals, but they will need to make a big step up if they are to advance any further.
The Pumas, who before the game an outside chance of reaching the play-offs for the first time, let themselves down with a poor kicking game and it was no surprise when flyhalf Chris Smith was replaced before the half-hour mark was up.
They also did not have any answers to the Lions’ power set pieces, apart from a number of questionable scrums calls by the referee.
The Lions got off to the perfect start – Lionel Mapoe picking up a stray pass, coming from scrum pressure, and sprinted 50 metres for the opening score inside the opening two minutes.
The hosts hit straight back, Devon Williams going over near the right touchline after Morné Joubert made a great run down the wing.
It continued back-and-forth for a while – at breakneck speed, interspersed with a host of errors.
However, in the 14th minute Lions hooker Corne Fourie received an armchair ride at the back of a powerful maul and scored his team’s second try.
Right on the half-hour mark, the Lions were reduced to 14 men, after centre Howard Mnisi was guilty of a cynical foul – slapping the ball out of an opponents hands in a tackle.
The Pumas threw everything at the visitors and, after another warning for repeated offences by the Lions, No.8 Francois Kleynhans burst over from close range to level matters up.
However, great interplay between Springboks Lionel Mapoe and Courtnall Skosan got the visitors their third try.
That was followed by Kleynhans going from hero to villain – being yellow-carded for slapping the ball down.
Lions flank James Venter was then denied a second try, when No.8 Hacjivah Dayimani was obstructing the defence – leaving.
The Lions did eventually get their bonus-point try, when Skosan scored his second try in the 49th minute – simple hands creating the space for the flyer on the left wing.
Right on the hour mark, Fourie got his second try, when the hooker went over from a splintered maul.
With just over 10 minutes remaining on the clock Pumas captain Ryan Nell burst over from scrum five metres out to give his side some hope of a late comeback.
However, the game stumbled to a predictable end and the Lions held on for the win.
Man of the match: Stefan Ungerer kept the Pumas in the contest for long periods in the first half with his great kicking game. Of the many Lions that put their hands up, flank James Venter was the most productive and wins our award.
For the Pumas:
Tries: Williams, Kleinhans, Nell
Cons: Smith, Marais 2
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Mapoe, Fourie 2, Skosan 2
Cons: Jantjies 4
Yellow cards: Howard Mnisi (Lions, 30 – cynical foul, slapping the ball out of opponent’s hands), Francois Kleynhans (Pumas, 40 – cynical foul, slapping ball down),
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Pumas: 14 Devon Williams, 14 Morné Joubert, 13 Neil Maritz, 12 Ryan Nell (captain), 11 Ruwellyn Isbel, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Cameron Lindsay, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Marné Coetzee, 2 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 Stefan Willemse, 19 Jeandré Rudolph, 20 Abri Griesel, 21 Kobus Marais, 22 Henco Marais.
Golden Lions: 15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Wandisile Simelane, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom (captain), 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Jo-Hanko de Villiers, 6 James Venter, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Corne Fourie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Chergin Fillies, 19 Driaan Bester, 20 Len Massyn, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Shaun Reynolds.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: Stephan Geldenhuys, Johre Botha
TMO: Marius Jonker