Lions hold off Cheetahs in thriller

Marnitz Boshoff kicked 23 points to guide the Golden Lions to a 43-33 semi-final victory over the Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.

Following a poor first-half outing, which saw them trail 16-13, the hosts turned in a spirited second-half performance to progress to their third Currie Cup final in five years.

Boshoff succeeded with nine out of nine kicks at goal in a match where the Cheetahs outscored the Lions five tries to four.

The Lions will now host the title decider against Western Province next Saturday.

The Cheetahs started this semi-final off well, dominating the opening 10 minutes. Having worked their way into Lions territory, Francois Venter made the most of a poor pass as he sliced through the hosts’ defence to canter over for a try.

Jaco Kriel then scored the Lions’ first try from the back of a rolling maul and Boshoff converted for a 7-5 advantage.

But basic mistakes by the Lions saw Niel Marais slot two penalties, before Boshoff pulled one back for a 11-10 scoreline in favour of the visitors.

However, the Cheetahs were not ready to relinquish the lead and when they were awarded a penalty, Clayton Blommetjies kicked for touch right on the 5m line. And there was no stopping Boom Prinsloo from burrowing over for the Cheetahs’ second five-pointer.

With half-time approaching, Boshoff knocked over a penalty but the Cheetahs still took a 16-13 lead into the tunnel.

The try-fest continued in the second stanza as the lead exchanged hands once more when Lions lock Lourens Erasmus threw a dummy pass to go in under the posts for a converted score.

At 20-16, two tries in the space of four minutes, by loose forward Gerhard Olivier and Marais, put the Cheetahs in front again.

The Lions turned up the intensity and scored 10 points – via a penalty try, conversion and penalty goal – while the Cheetahs lost Prinsloo to the sin bin.

In the 67th minute the match took another twist, when Sias Ebersohn benefited from a wonderful break by Sergeal Petersen to score next to the posts.

Then in a moment of sheer brilliance, with his team under pressure, Kriel took a pass on the right wing and shrugged off three defenders to score what would be the match-winning try.

There was to be no way back for the Cheetahs, who had to finish the match a man down, after Maks van Dyk was yellow-carded in the 72nd minute.

Boshoff converted his fifth penalty to send the Lions into the final.

Golden Lions – Tries: Jaco Kriel (2), Lourens Erasmus, penalty try. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (4). Penalties: Boshoff (5).
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Francois Venter, Boom Prinsloo, Gerhard Olivier, Niel Marais, Sias Ebersohn. Conversion: Marais. Penalties: Marais (2).

Golden Lions – Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Steph de Witt, 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Fabian Booysen, 19 Kwagga Smith, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 22 Sampie Mastriet.

Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 BG Uys.
Subs: 16 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 Reniel Hugo, 19 Gerhard Olivier, 20 Ruan van Rensburg, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 AJ Coertzen.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Mariette Adams