The Lions put themselves in semifinal contention at the halfway stage of the Absa Currie Cup by winning last night.
Capitalising on an early try, the Lions were never headed. The forwards laid the platform for what turned out to be a comfortable victory over Western Province.
Simnikiwe Xabanisa writes for the Sunday Times that with both teams having started on 17 points, in fourth and fifth on the log, the hosts leap-frogged WP to be in the last semifinal place with the home leg remaining.
The Lions pack laid the foundation for the win by dominating the scrums and the breakdown.
In the scrums, Heinke van der Merwe and Lawrence Sephaka ran a night-school for their opposite numbers, besting them for both grunt and underhand tactics. At the breakdown, Province were counter-rucked off the ball or coughed it up themselves.The only area where they were in the ascendancy in the first half was in the lineout.
Eugene Eloff’s charges were helped by a bright start, where they scored in the second minute through flanker Franco van der Merwe. Province No8 Schalk Brits’ attempted clearance was charged down by Louis Ludik, the loose ball finding its way to big Willem Alberts, who offloaded to Van der Merwe for the score.
Having started the second half in the same vein with an early Jano Vermaak try, the hosts ran into real trouble in the last 20 minutes. This happened because the whole visiting front row was substituted injured, introducing uncontested scrums into the equation because the only front-rower Province had on the bench was JC Kritzinger, a hooker.
With Justin Melck at tighthead, Kritzinger at loosehead and Brits back at hooker, WP mounted a comeback because they suddenly had five loosies to gain parity at the breakdown. Although the visitors nearly benefited from the injuries to their front-rowers — they suddenly didn’t have to win the scrums and had numbers and pace at the breakdown — Eloff was not aggrieved.
“When I saw the team they picked I predicted it would happen. I don’t think they did it maliciously because I believe they have integrity. They are in real trouble in those positions,” he said. “Because we knew it was going to happen, we decided not to change our basic strategy too much.”
The bizarre nature of Province’s selections did not end up front. Flyhalf Willem de Waal had to play most of the game with a leg injury because there was no cover for him on the bench.
Tries: Franco van der Merwe, Jano Vermaak, Doppies la Grange.
Conversions: Earl Rose (3).
Penalties: Rose. (2).
Western Province 13
Try: Nick Koster
Conversions: Willem de Waal.
Penalties: De Waal (2).
Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Michael Killian, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Franco van der Merwe, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Dewald Senekal, 3 Lawrence Sephaka, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Gert Muller, 18 Justin Wheeler, 19 Derick Minnie, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 22 Heini Gordon.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Dylan Des Fountain, 12 Gcobani Bobo, (captain), 11 Joe Pietersen, 10 Willem De Waal, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8 Schalk Brits, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 JC Kritzinger, 17 Pieter Louw, 18 Justin Melck, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Tonderai Chavhanga, 22 Morgan Newman.