Lions win again
A week after thumping Russia, the Lions dished up an impressive performance to beat the Cheetahs 33-17 in their Lions Challenge match at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The loss will give Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske some food for thought ahead of this year's Super Rugby season as they were outwitted by a rampant Lions side that ran the ball from all corners of the field. Prior to the win the Cheetahs were already rank outsiders for the title with bookmakers like SportsBetting.ag and the weekend's reverse has only seen those odds lengthen.
While Drotske did not field a full-strength side the Lions also made a number of changes from last week's match against Russia.
There were some unforced errors early on with especially the Lions fumbling the ball in crucial areas of the field while hooker Swys du Toit also struggled to find his jumpers in the line-outs.
The Cheetahs' scrum would be a cause for concern with Lions prop and captain JC Janse van Rensburg teaching Rossouw de Klerk a few lessons in the scrum in the opening stages.
There were nevertheless some exciting moments, especially after the first 20 minutes when the two sides were still testing the waters.
The Bloemfontein-based side did not disappoint with their trademark expansive game plan as they attacked the line with fervor. When they received go-forward ball they made good gains over the advantage line by merely spreading the ball through the hands.
Nine minutes into the match, the Cheetahs pierced the Lions' defenses with outside centre JP Nel crossing the goal line, with fly-half Francois Brummer converting.
The Cheetahs received a setback on the 20 minute mark with playmaker winger Raymond Rhule receiving a yellow card for a tip tackle.
The Lions capitalised on the advantage eight minutes later when Ruhan Nel scored for his side receiving a pass from flanker Jaco Kriel who made solid break. Full-back Marnitz Boshoff converted to equal the scores.
Four minutes later the Cheetahs took the lead once again as they spread the ball wide to Rhule, who trotted over the line.
The Cheetahs extended the lead eight minutes into the second half with fullback Hennie Daniller earning his five-pointer, with Boshoff converting to take the scores to 17-7.
The hosts then launched their fight back with impressive centre Stokkies Hanekom being the protagonist in their eventual victory.
Hanekom scored the try of the match in the 54th minute as he chipped the ball over a Cheetahs defender and fielded to finish the move off with a dive over the line.
The Lions rolled with the momentum as winger Anthony Volmink scored their third try of the evening.
The home-side forced a turnover on their 22 with scrumhalf Michael Bondesio breaking on the blindside and grubbered the ball through for Volminck to field and finish off, with Boshoff converting.
The Lions added two more tries in the last 20 minutes of the match with flyhalf Lionel Cronje scoring from a Garyowen from Boshoff while Hanekom scored his brace in the 72nd minute to round-off an impressive performance.
For the Lions:
Tries: Nel, Hanekom 2, L. Cronje, Volmink
Cons: Boshoff, Nel
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Rhule, Nel, Daniller
Yellow card: Rhule
Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Guy Cronje, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Gavin Annandale, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Claude Tshidibi, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Andries Coetzee.
Cheetahs: 15 Henie Daniller, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 JP Nel, 12 Robert Ebersohn (Captain), 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Tertius Daniller, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Waltie Vermeulen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Barry Geel, 22 Hansie Graaff.