Lions get the better of the Sharks
They weren’t at their convincing best, but the Lions didn’t need to be here on Saturday.
They downed an at times feisty Sharks team to secure top spot on the Super Rugby points table, their maiden appearance at the summit at the completion of the league stages.
The sides play each other again in the quarter-finals next week, while elsewhere the Crusaders meet the Highlanders, the Stormers the Chiefs, while the Brumbies will host the defending champions, the Hurricanes.
The Lions yesterday comfortably outplayed the hosts with whom they have a date at Ellis Park next week. Yesterday’s activity was like a first date – awkward at the best of times.
Victory for the Lions potentially paved a golden highway to the title, but they have to win all three those home matches they have battled so hard to secure.
The Sharks’ prize in defeat yesterday is a trip to Ellis Park where their conquerors of yesterday have won 13 matches in a row.
To be fair even before kick-off the Sharks found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Victory would have meant the rather unpalatable prospect of boarding a flight to Johannesburg for a connection across the time zones to Sydney, before completing their journey in Christchurch where the seven-time champions, and one time losers this season in Super Rugby this season, the Crusaders lay in wait.
If, as oft suggested, Super Rugby was a marathon and not a sprint, the Sharks may well have been justified to linger at the refreshment stand yesterday.
As it turned out they just happened to play one of the standard bearing teams in the competition.
The Sharks were on the back foot but they proved quite adept at the hustle. They had more than they measure of the Lions’ vaunted scrum, while at times applying a spoiling hand in the line-out.
Jean-Luc du Preez was every bit the bruiser we’ve come to expect, while backrow partner Van der Walt delivered another honest shift.
The Lions however mostly through Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Kwagga Smith and Jaco Kriel were on the front foot and in the ascendancy.
They also made silly errors, like the one that gifted Kobus van Wyk a try.
Nobody was more surprised at that turn of events than the try scorer himself who lavishly celebrated the feat with some feisty hand slapping of his chest.
The Lions’ riposte in the final act of the first half served as reminder however, that they with increasingly reassurance, are a side now in command of their own destiny.
Sharks (10) – Try: Kobus van Wyk. Conversion: Garth April. Penalty: April.
Lions (27) - Tries: Malcolm Marx, Andries Coetzee, Jaco Kriel. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (4).