The Golden Lions had to rely on a strong second half comeback to surge into the Currie Cup playoffs by outlasting the Sharks 28-16 at Ellis Park on Friday night.
The Sharks were full of fight and agro in the first half taking the battle to the hometeam in the first 40, applying a lot of physical approach at scrumtime and especially at the breakdowns where referee Craig Joubert often gave the visitors the benefit of the doubt.
The game was supposed to kick off at 5pm but the start was delayed when the Sharks were held up in traffic, with the hometeam running out first and the start of the game happening only at 5.13pm.
And the Sharks seemed to get the best out of the delay by dominating the physical exchanges and holding a 10-0 advantage at the break after the first try of the game through scrumhalf Michael Claassens and a successful conversion and penalty by fullback Curwin Bosch.
But in the second half the Lions started to turn the corner with their first try through captain and flank Kwagga Smith to have the Lions trail 7-13 after Bosch landed a penalty in the 45th minute to send the visitors up by 13-0.
A yellow card however to Sharks flanker Francois Kleinhans in the 50th minute for a tip tackle on Lions flyhalf Jaco van der Walt saw the pivot reduce the deficit to 10-13, before Bosch once again increased the margin for the visitors with a penalty at 16-10 in the 54th minute.
But after that it was just the Lions.
In the 58th minute centre Howard Mnisi cruised through for the Lions second try after a terrific buildup bu with Van der Walt missing the conversion the Lions still trailed 15-16.
But eventually the Lions were rewarded in the 63rd minute when fullback Andries Coetzee landed the penalty to send the Lions into a 18-16 lead. And they never looked back despite the passionate Sharks never giving up.
After great interplay Lions replacement No 15 Sylvian Mahuza scored the hometeam’s third try in the 70th minute and after Coetzee converted it was 25-16 to the Lions.
And with Coetzee landing a penalty in the 77th minute the Lions were in the playoffs.
And nobody dare to argue they deserve to be.