Simelane and Skosan show steers Lions to first win

Wandisile Simelane marked his return to the Lions team with a fantastic outing to help them claim a 61-31 victory over Griquas in Johannesburg on Friday. DYLAN JACK reports.

Simelane was making his first start in Super Rugby Unlocked after travelling to Durban and Cape Town as an extra substitute in the Lions’ opening losses to the Sharks and Stormers.

The 22-year-old had found starting opportunities tough to come by, with the Lions preferring a partnership of Burger Odendaal and Dan Kriel. However, he made the most of his opportunity in the Lions’ first home game of the season on Friday evening, assisting three of the Lions’ seven tries in the first half, while picking up a try himself just as Griquas were threatening a late comeback.

A word must also be said of flyhalf Elton Jantjies as the Lions captain enjoyed a near-flawless game off the kicking tee, converting eight of their nine tries.

The Lions coaches will be delighted that they have finally managed to open their account with a bonus-point win, but their second-half performance will need a looking at, especially with the high-flying Vodacom Bulls as the next fixture.

A first-half brace from Courtnall Skosan and tries from Dan Kriel and Stean Pienaar gave the Lions a 28-3 lead at the break. When MJ Pelser and Jaco Visagie scored their first tries for the Lions – both from driving mauls – it looked as if the hosts would cruise to an easy victory.

However, a lot of credit must go to Griquas, who continued fighting even when it looked as if the result was decided. The visitors were typically bullish on defence and aggressive at the breakdown, while they gave the Lions defence plenty to think about in the second half. That is perhaps one particular area which will have the Lions coaches concerned as there were times when Griquas’ backs found making metres and breaking tackles far too easy.

Ultimately a late flurry of tries, during which Skosan completed his hat-trick, put more glitter on the scoreline for the hosts.

Lions – Tries: Courtnall Skosan (3), Dan Kriel, Stean Pienaar, MJ Pelser, Jaco Visagie, Wandisile Simelane, Reinhard Nothnagel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (8)
Griquas – Tries: Zak Burger, HJ Luus, James Verity-Amm, Tinus de Beer. Conversions: George Whitehead (4). Penalty: Whitehead

Lions – 15 Gianni Lombard; 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Morné van den Berg; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.

Griquas – 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 André Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (c), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Carl Els, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Adré Smith, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel.
Subs: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Bandisa Ndlovu, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Johan Momsen, 20 Ewan Coetzee, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Masixole Banda.

Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack