The Lions probably used all their get-out-of-jail-free cards on Saturday after they edged the Sharks 23-21 in a nerve-wracking Super Rugby quarterfinal at Ellis Park.
A 78th minute penalty by wing Ruan Combrinck inside his own territory was the only difference between the sides.
The Lions would be the first to admit they were fortunate after an erratic and error-ridden display.
In contrast, the Sharks deserve a lot of credit for their tireless work on defence and managing to make the Lions look mediocre.
Goalkicking almost came back to haunt the home side too.
First flyhalf Elton Jantjies missed four of his six attempts and as soon as he left proceedings Combrinck missed another.
In the end though, it didn’t matter.
Who was the star in this match?
Despite his yellow card in the 65th minute, Lions lock Franco Mostert not only scored his team’s opening try early in the second half to start the Lions fightback but his tireless work on defense was once again an inspiration to his side. Early in the first half he seemed rattled after he made a tackle on Sharks wing Kobus van Wyk but he simply shook off the niggle and continued with his demolition job.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions’ third try by centre Lionel Mapoe in the 62nd minute put the Lions back in the lead at 20-14 after they caught the Sharks napping by taking a quick tap well inside their own territory. It was undoubtedly the turning point.
- The Sharks from the outset played knockout rugby and managed to pounce on the Lions mistakes in the opening half and were full value for their 14-3 halftime lead. The Sharks put huge pressure on the Lions ball-carriers allowing them no space at all and the Lions struggled to deal with it.
- Jantjies had a poor first half making mistakes under pressure. In his defence, the Lions pack were under pressure in the opening period and he received little time with ball in hand.
- It’s difficult to console the Sharks after a performance like this but they are probably a year or two away from having the experience to capitalise on wayward performances. But there’s definitely a lot that can be built on.
Lions: Tries: Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies, Ruan Combrinck (1) .
Sharks: Tries: Kobus van Wyk, Dan du Preez. Conversion:Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (2). Drop goal: Bosch (1).