Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions pleased to have kept their composure in URC win over Sharks

The Lions suffered a number of injuries to key players in the match, but they are hopeful that none are too serious.

Despite it being a bit of an up-and-down game the Lions were content with their bonus point 40-10 win over the Sharks in their United Rugby Championship (URC) derby at Ellis Park on Saturday.

It was a match that swung both ways, while both teams also had to overcome a 40-minute delay to the start of the second half due to a heavy storm that brought rain and lightning, which changed conditions drastically from what they had started playing in.

The Sharks took an early lead in the match through a third-minute Siya Masuku penalty, but that proved to be the only time that they led as the Lions hit back with three tries in 15 minutes, to Sanele Nohamba, JC Pretorius and Quan Horn, with two converted by Jordan Hendrikse.

That gave the hosts a 19-3 lead after 22 minutes, only for the Sharks to then enjoy their best spell of the match as they scored through Eduan Keyter and had a try to Aphelele Fassi just before the break chalked off due to a foul in the build-up, with the score 19-10 at half-time.

Strong play

The visitors continued with their strong play early in the second half, but the Lions defence desperately held firm, before they finally turned momentum back in their favour.

A 64th minute try to Conraad van Vuuren sparked another try spree as they dotted down three times in 11 minutes, with Erich Cronje and Hanru Sirgel adding their names to the scorers list, putting the Lions up 40-10 after 75 minutes.

“I don’t think there will ever be a perfect game. What we managed well this time was when the momentum swung (to the Sharks) we managed to get it back on our side,” said Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen.

“In that first period after the long break it was a bit of an arm wrestle to see where we could find space or how we could get momentum back.

“The bench made a big difference, although it almost bit us going with the 6-2 split (of forwards to backs). But luckily JC (Pretorius, flank who ended the game playing on the wing) is adaptable and happy defending space, which he picked up playing sevens.

“I think after the first 30 minutes we could have got frustrated, because we felt we had the upper hand. But after full time to feel like we stuck through the 80 minutes and kept our composure is obviously a positive for us.”

Some niggles

The Lions did suffer a number of injuries to key players in the match, but they are hopeful that none are too serious and the players will be fit and ready to travel on their three-game European tour in the URC and Challenge Cup, which they will leave on in just over two weeks.

“Hopefully (Ruan) Venter is fine, it was his lower leg, and Henco (van Wyk) hurt his knee. But they’ve been down at the field (after the match) so that is the first positive sign,” said Van Rooyen.

“Sanele had a little bit of a muscle scare but I think we picked it up early enough so it won’t be a big thing, and Corne (Fourie) seems to have injured his shoulder, but we still have to wait 48 hours before we can scan and know more. But hopefully they will all be fine and fit for the next game.”