The Lions started their preparations for the Super 14 with a resounding victory over one of their fiercest rivals
The IOL reports that the Lions, running in five tries before the break and seven in total, completely outplayed a young Bulls side in what was intended as a Super 14 warm-up for the two sides at Wits University on Saturday evening. The final score was 44-21 to the Lions.
In the match between the two second sides on view, the Lions won 22-13.
What is obviously the side earmarked by coach Loffie Eloff for the Super 14 led 34-0 at the break – and deservedly so. They were sharper, had a clear game plan and used their opportunities better than the Bulls.
That is not to say that the Lions played perfect rugby. They were obviously on their first run of the season, but their greater experience counted against a Bulls side that in the first half had only two Super 14 regulars on the field.
The Lions dominated up front and the Bulls, with their lack of possession, were often stationary when the ball came their way.
Replacement flank Deon Stegmann scored his first try just after the break after the first real Bulls forward charge but the five Lions’ tries before the break and the one by Michael Killian just after Stegmann’s score saw them lead 39-7 and ultimately clinched the match.
Even with Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana and Akona Ndungane, plus Rayno Gerber, Zane Kirchner and Stegmann on in the second half, the Lions remained the initial second-half pacesetters and Michael Killian scored their seventh try to make it 44-7.
But the Bulls did show a little of their forward power and a little more of the structure that made them champions in 2007 and were the better side at the end – and three tries and a second half they “won” 21-10, they’ll argue, showed what they’re capable of.
However, the coaches will not worry too much about the score. The Bulls, who will field their best side against the Cheetahs next weekend before again sending their youngsters in against the Sharks on February 4, have more work to do generally and on their structures, but then: this was not much more than their Vodacom Cup side against the Lions’ best.
In summary: Pedrie Wannenburg, looking to regain a place in the starting line-up, looked good on the Bulls side; Chiliboy Ralepelle is far from match-fit; and there is much work to be done on their structures, pace to the breakdown and ball retention.
The Lions have a tigerish pack of forwards, scrummed well enough and looked sharp at the back if one discounts the many handling and option errors on both sides. Jannes Labuscagne is on his way back and Willem Alberts, for all his size, impressed with his linking in the first half.
Tries: Ashwin Willemse, Henno Mentz, Gert Muller, Earl Rose, Jaque Fourie, Michael Killian, Jano Vermaak.
Conversions: Rose (3).
Tries: Deon Stegmann (2), Akona Ndungane.
Conversions: Burton Francis (2), Bryan Habana.
Meanwhile in the early match between the two franchises, the Lions dominated the first half when the Bulls were intent on taking the ball wide.
The home side led 12-3 at the break, but a new urgency up front and a change in the game plan of the young Bulls in the second half saw them dominate until some 15 minutes before the end, when they led 13-12.
But a personnel change or two by the Bulls saw the fortunes change again and the Lions deservedly won 22-13.
What mattered more, undoubtedly, was the fact that new Lion Shandre Frolick caught well and ran well at fullback; Walter Venter was solidity itself at centre despite his lack of speed and Gerrit-Jan van Velze, Okkie Kruger and Frik Kirsten impressed with the experienced lock Nico Luus also keeping the Lions busy in the tight loose. –Tweet