Tiaan Swanepoel scored two tries and booted four penalties to guide the Lions to a 33-25 victory against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Saturday.
It was by no means the Lions’ best performance, but they produced a solid second half display to tame the gutsy Pumas to secure the points on offer.
As a result of this win, the Lions have provisionally moved up to second on the log, above Western Province who face the Cheetahs in a crucial away game later today. More importantly, the win will serve as a welcome confidence booster to the Lions, who have to front the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus in four days time.
Two mistakes from two kick offs – one by either side – in the opening five minutes resulted in a converted try for both teams. Locked at seven points apiece with no real rhythm to the game, the Lions slowly built up a lead courtesy of two well-struck long range penalties from Swanepoel.
And yet, despite their six-point advantage, the Lions couldn’t deal with the Pumas’ abrasive physicality nor their accuracy at the breakdown. That superiority saw the hosts accumulate 10 straight points, including a late try, for a 17-13 lead at the break.
With the knowledge that defeat would set them back significantly in the tightly contested race for a place in the semi-finals, the Lions came out roaring in the second half. Swanepoel bagged a brace of tries, both converted by captain Elton Jantjies.
The Pumas refused to lie down and simply accept defeat as they crossed for a stunning team try moments after the two kickers traded penalties. But with the game in the balance thanks to a slender five-point difference, the Lions called on their superior scrum to win penalties to get them into favourable positions on the field.
And then at the death, Swanepoel stepped up to land his fourth penalty to ultimately seal the deal for his side.
Pumas – Tries: Willie Engelbrecht, Simon Westraadt, Erich Cronje. Conversions: Ginter Smuts (2). Penalties: Smuts (2).
Lions – Tries: Jaco Visagie, Tiaan Swanepoel (2). Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Tiaan Swanepoel (4).
Pumas – 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Devon Williams, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (c), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naude.
Subs: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Eduan Swart, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Tiaan Botes, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Wayne van der Bank.
Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dylan Smith.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Marnus Schoeman.
Photo: Lions Rugby/Twitter