Tiaan Swanepoel produced a flawless kicking display to guide the Lions to a 32-28 victory over the Pumas in their preparation match at Ellis Park on Friday.
With this being the first match played following the implementation of SA Rugby’s new ball-in-play innovation directives, pressure was on the Pumas and Lions to adapt accordingly and surprisingly they did just that.
That said, the Pumas’ kickers struggled to deal with the pressures of the clock, skewing several of their attempts at goal. Swanepoel, though, had no such problems. He succeeded with eight kicks from as many attempts, including six penalties, for a 100% return off the kicking tee.
The Pumas made a positive start to the game and maintained that confidence for the duration of the first half. Apart from their smooth and enterprising play on attack, the visitors also smothered the Lions with their brutal physicality in contact and at the breakdown.
However, for all their might, the Pumas should be disappointed that they allowed the Lions to stay within touching distance on the scoreboard. The hosts played second fiddle for much of first half, but managed to go into the sheds for the half-time interval level at 13 points apiece. The Lions then came into their own in the second half to blow out the Pumas.
Hooker Simon Westraadt gave the Pumas the perfect start when he charged over from the back of a driving maul, but Swanepoel nailed two penalties, including one from well inside his own half, to get his side within a point.
Eddie Fouche then replicated Swanepoel’s feat with the boot, pushing the Pumas’ lead out to 13-10, but a costly handling mistake just before the break led to scrumhalf Morne van den Berg scuttling away for a brilliant try as the Lions wiped out the Pumas’ advantage.
Through the Pumas’ ill-discipline and the subsequent accuracy of Swanepoel’s boot, the Lions seized control of the game as they surged to 22-16 despite being down 13-6 at one stage.
Sensing that the game is slipping away from them, Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse made a number of changes and his bench made an immediate impact as they accounted for two quick tries, but a great response led to MJ Pelser going over for the Lions’ second touchdown to put the game on a knife’s edge at 29-28 heading into the last 10 minutes.
But Swanepoel sealed the win for the Lions with his sixth penalty in the 78th minute and subjected the Pumas to an agonising defeat.
Lions – Tries: Morne van den Berg, MJ Pelser. Conversion: Tiaan Swanepoel (2). Penalties: Swanepoel (6).
Pumas – Tries: Simon Westraadt, AJ le Roux, Ali Mgjima. Conversion: Eddie Fouche, Ginter Smuts. Penalties: Fouche (3).
Lions – 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Prince Nkabinde, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 James Mollentze, 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Tiaan Swanepoel, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (c), 4 Emmanuel Tshituka, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Nathan McBeth.
Subs: 16 Dameon Venter, 17 Banele Mthenjane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Ruhan Straeuli, 20 MJ Pelser, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Luke Rossouw, 23 Ngia Selengbe, 24 Ruan Dreyer, 25 Izan Esterhuizen, 26 Sibusiso Sangweni.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Ettiene Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouché, 9 Giovan Snyman, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Eward Potgieter, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter van Vuuren (c), 4 Brandon Valentine, 3 Ig Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naudé.
Subs: 16 Abraham le Roux, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Dewald Maritz, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Kwanda Dimaza, 21 Ginter Smuts, 22 Ali Mgjima, 23 Tapiwa Mafura.
Photo: Lions Rugby