The Lions made sure they will finish second on the overall Super Rugby log after they continued their recent dominance over the Bulls at Ellis Park … eventually.
But boy, did they make it difficult on themselves.
The scoreline of 38-12 looked comfortable but they had to come back from an early 0-12 deficit and it was only really the penalty try awarded by referee Marius van der Westhuizen in the 63rd minute from a dominant scrum that allowed the hosts to break free.
The Lions have a mountain of work to do before the playoffs.
Who was the star in this match?
The Bulls came out to play and at the forefront of their challenge was robust openside flanker Marco van Staden. It wasn’t difficult to see why Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus rates him so highly. He unsettled the Lions at the breakdown, disrupted their continuity with some massive tackles and was a huge physica; presence.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions were under pressure in both the territory and possession stakes early. New Bulls flyhalf and former Junior Bok Manie Libbok made the hosts pay for some familiarly dismal defence, exposing opposite number Elton Jantjies on defence to put the Bulls up 7-0 after eight minutes.
- Van Staden’s poaching habit led to another shock for the home side after he stole a Lions ball on the ground to send centre Jesse Kriel away for the Bulls’ second try.
- The Lions’ superior class was eventually telling as they gradually eroded the Bulls’ own dodgy defensive system but the suspicion persists that they lack a coherent attacking shape and rely overly on mauls and bruising forward play.
- The hosts’ handling skills also needs work as a litany of balls went down though some it was down to some wayward attacking play. They’ll also need to use their reasonably solid set-pieces better in placing scoreboard pressure on opponents.
Lions – Tries: Ruan Combrinck (2), Malcolm Marx, Courtnall Skosan, penalty try, Aphiwe Dyantyi. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3), Andries Coetzee.
Bulls – Tries: Manie Libbok, Jesse Kriel. Conversion: Libbok.