Golden Lions may yet go from zeros to heroes

11 October 2017 - 07:32 By LIAM DEL CARME
Lionel Mapoe of the Lions crashes through a tackle in the Super Rugby semifinal match. File photo
Lionel Mapoe of the Lions crashes through a tackle in the Super Rugby semifinal match. File photo
Image: AFP Photo/Christiaan Kotze

It's unlikely in the 125 years of the Currie Cup's existence that a team went from last on the points table to securing a home semifinal a week later.

It perhaps says more about this year's closely contested Currie Cup format than it does about the Golden Lions' 11th-hour grasping of a wake-up.

When they kicked off against Western Province at a rain-soaked Ellis Park on Sunday they were bottom of the pile following earlier wins on the weekend for the Blue Bulls and Griquas.

Fact is, they're not in the semis yet, let alone hosting one.

First the Lions have to cross fingers that Western Province slip up against the table- topping Sharks in Durban on Saturday, before they go in search of a win against the Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park.

The first part of the equation is in the hands of the Sharks and to what degree they will expose their first-choice players to the furnace a week ahead of a semifinal.

The Lions vs Cheetahs match-up is potentially an intriguing one, with both teams likely to incorporate fresh faces in their lineup.

In the case of the Lions they could welcome Springboks like the in-form hooker Malcolm Marx, scrumhalf Ross Cronje, wing Courtnall Skosan, fullback Andries Coetzee and tighthead Ruan Dreyer, while the Cheetahs, who have no Pro14 commitments this weekend, could potentially call on centre Francois Venter (to captain the side), hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld, utility back Sergeal Petersen and wing Raymond Rhule.

They will be welcome additions to the Cheetahs, who, after a bright start to the competition, have gone backwards. They've had to spread their resources thin across the Pro14 and the Currie Cup.

Although the Cheetahs are third  on the points table they could slip out of a top-four shot should they lose and the  Blue Bulls secure a bonus point win over the Pumas.

It would be a miraculous achievement were they to qualify for the semis while still making a fist of it in Europe.

The Lions, however, will be tough to beat. They will well recall how they lost to the Cheetahs after the full-time siren in Bloemfontein in August.