The Lions put in a dominant display to overcome the Cheetahs 40-17 in Bloemfontein on Saturday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
The visitors came into the match knowing that nothing less than perfection is required from here on in if they're to make the play-offs. What they turned in was one of their most complete performances of the season to set up a massive clash with the Waratahs at Ellis Park next weekend.
For the Cheetahs and Naka Drotské, it was a disappointing evening, which saw them comprehensively outplayed from start to finish. The damage was done during the opening stanza as the Lions made the most of their two-thirds of possession and territory to open up a 23-3 lead.
It was the Cheetahs who opened the scoring with a Francois Brummer penalty, but that would be as good as it got for the hosts. While their defence held out for the opening quarter, there was a certain inevitability about proceedings.
Only a last-ditch tackle on Warren Whiteley prevented the Lions from going in for the match's opening try after some quick thinking from Faf de Klerk. But it was only a matter of time. The Lions won a penalty at the resulting scrum and Whiteley opted to kick for the corner. It proved the correct decision as the Lions rumbled over, with Jaco Kriel coming up with the ball.
There was a very stop-start nature to the contest, with the Cheetahs' struggles at scrum time not helping matters. Maks van Dyk was penalised a number of times for scrumming in under the immense pressure, and the Lions capitalised through the boot of Elton Jantjies.
Not to be outdone by the forwards, the Lions backline got in on the act just before half-time with a superbly crafted try. They stretched the Cheetahs defence from right to left before De Klerk injected some directness, selling a dummy to ghost through before finding Lionel Mapoe on his inside who ran a great supporting line.
The Cheetahs were nowhere. What little ball they did see, they kicked away cheaply and the Lions refused to give it back. Things got worse for the hosts at the start of the second half as a loose pass from Clayton Blommetjies was seized upon by the Lions and the ball was worked wide to Courtnall Skosan, who cantered in for the Lions' third try.
Drotské was quick to make changes and he got the desired impact with Boom Prinsloo going in on the the back of a driving maul after Robbie Coetzee was sent to the sin bin for a tip-tackle.
However, restored to their full contingent, the Lions went in search of the bonus-point try. After a period of sustained pressure, it would be the lively De Klerk who would get it.
The Cheetahs grabbed a consolation try from another rolling maul, but there was little doubt over who the better side was on the day and over the course of the season.
Cheetahs – Tries: Boom Prinsloo (2). Conversions: Coenie van Wyk (2). Penalty: Francois Brummer.
Lions – Tries: Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan, Faf de Klerk. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (4).
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Mienie.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Coenie van Wyk, 23 Ryno Benjamin.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Harold Vorster.
Photo: Gerhard Steenkamp/BackpagePix