Tiaan Swanepoel kicked a penalty after the full-time hooter to see the Lions claim a 43-40 win in a thrilling 12-try encounter in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Run of play: The Lions started the match strongly and capitalised on the Sharks’ errors to take a 26-14 lead into the break. The Sharks had their opportunities in the first half, but some white-line fever combined with strong scrambling defence from the Lions had the visitors wasting a few of those chances. A brace from Dylan Richardson got the Sharks back into the contest, but the hooker also overthrew at a lineout allowing Jan-Henning Campher to extend the Lions’ lead. As the clash opened up in the final 20 minutes, young prop Ntuthuko Mchunu scored two tries to bring the Sharks level at 40-40 before Swanepoel kicked a penalty with both sides left with players strewn all over in exhaustion.
Pre-match prediction: Before this encounter kicked off we asked SARugbymag.co.za readers to vote on the outcome they expected. A combined 58% voted for a Sharks victory, with 34% of voters expecting the Durban side to take it by 11-plus points. However, in this case, it was the minority of 6% of readers who got it right, voting for the Lions to win by between one and five points.
Front-row impact: Much will be made of the sparkling form of the backs in this clash, as can be expected from a match that featured 12 tries. However, Ntuthuko Mchunu came off the bench in the second half and had a memorable match. The youngster had an immediate impact, scoring in the 69th minute, but his real highlight came with six minutes left. Receiving the ball after running a flat line, Mchunu broke through a tackle and proceeded to show his pace to outsprint the cover defence and score. It was certainly as memorable a moment as we have had from a front ranker.
Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Ngia Selengbe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Subs: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Dan Kriel.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Rynhard Jonker, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Mpilo Gumede, 6 Thembelani Bholi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Dan Jooste, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Subs: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Emile van Heerden, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Marius Louw.