Ross Roche
Senior sports writer
2 minute read
8 Dec 2021
4:45 pm

How the Lions managed to top the SA URC log — against all odds

Ross Roche

Considering the fact that they went into the competition as the supposedly weakest local team, it should mean a lot to the union.

Edwill van der Merwe, Wandisile Simelane and Vincent Tshituka celebrate during their team's win against the Stormers in the URC last weekend. Picture: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

The Lions’ surprise bonus point win over the Stormers last weekend has sent them into the New Year as the top performing South African side in the United Rugby Championship so far.

It is not too noteworthy when you see they are ranked 10th on the 16-team log, but considering the hurdles they have faced in the early stages of the competition and the fact that they went into the competition as the supposedly weakest local team, it should mean a lot to the union.

The log however does have a lopsided look to it because the postponed fixtures mean that half the teams have played seven matches, while the other half have played five.

This includes the SA team’s who have played four of those games overseas and have yet to host a match against any of the foreign sides.

The Lions have the same record as the Sharks, two wins and three losses, but due to both the Lions wins being bonus point ones they find themselves two points ahead of the next best SA team.

Overseas tour

With their first match of the URC against Zebre, the Lions knew they had to get off to a strong start as Zebre are the competition’s weakest team, and the Lions didn’t disappoint as a huge first half performance made sure they walked away with a 38-26 win.

A poor performance against Scarlets followed, with the Lions soundly beaten 36-13, however they bounced back superbly to put in a mammoth defensive effort against Glasgow and only went down 13-9, with the hosts aided by a refereeing howler.

The Lions’ last game of their tour was against URC powerhouse Ulster and although they showed glimpses of their potential and pushed Ulster throughout, they eventually went down comfortably 26-10.

They were then excited to host their first two home fixtures against Cardiff and Munster, with the Cardiff match a must win as the inform Munster were set to be a very tough challenge, only for those games to be postponed at the last second, a day before the Cardiff clash.

Stormers derby

The local derby against the Stormers which was originally scheduled for February, was then brought up to the past weekend and the Lions turned on the style to end their year with a 37-19 win.

It was a very impressive showing, with many tipping the Stormers to win due to their home ground advantage, having a couple of Boks back, and being viewed as the stronger team.

But the Lions turned those predictions on their head and showed exactly how dangerous a team they can be when it all comes together for them.

That result will have given them a massive boost and they can now build on that going forward, however if the early January match against Leinster still goes ahead they will have to negotiate arguably the strongest team in the tournament first up.