The Lions booked themselves a third successive Super Rugby final after beating the Waratahs in a pulsating 44-26 thriller at Ellis Park on Saturday in their semifinal clash.
With 35 0120 fans cheering them on, the home side now, however, have to travel to Christchurch to meet defending champions the Crusaders who haven’t lost at home this year.
They beat the Hurricanes 30-12 in the earlier semifinal.
But it can’t be denied that the Lions have run into compelling form at the business end of the season.
Who was the star in this match?
If the Lions had a statue stashed away somewhere they definitely would have handed it to lock Franco Mostert. He was probably unlucky to have a try disallowed in the 33rd minute when a deflection from lock partner Marvin Orie drifted forward, but was immense in other areas, playing a key role in the maul try scored by hooker Malcolm Marx four minutes before the break. He went through a mountain of work on defence and dominated his collisions.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions’ slow starts continued to plague them. They allowed the ‘Tahs too much space initially, especially in the wider channels. Flank Ned Hanigan was the first beneficiary before the barnstorming Taqele Naiyaravoro brushed off Andries Coetzee and Ruan Combrinck in opening up space for fullback Israel Folau to score. Eight minutes gone: the Lions 0-14 behind.
- The Lions, however, responded magnificently. The bustling flanker Kwagga Smith burst through three tackles to get his side on the board but it was the brilliance of Aphiwe Dyantyi that took breaths away. Fielding a kick from deep in his 22, the Bok winger launched a chip over the defence, re-gathered and sped to the line. X-factor was the only way to describe that score.
- Despite conceding a late try in the first half to allow the Waratahs go into the break at 19-all, the Lions didn’t allow that lapse to rob them of momentum. They used their superior forward pack to launch two mauls from which hooker Malcolm Marx scored, while their defensive structure improved immeasurably as the game went on. If only they can defend like that at the start of matches…
- There will be concern about the hamstring injury sustained by Dyantyi, not only for the Lions but the Boks too. At the time of writing, the extent of the injury wasn’t known.
Lions – Tries: Kwagga Smith (2). Aphiwe Dyantyi, Malcolm Marx (2), Courtnall Skosan. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (2).
Waratahs – Tries: Ned Hanigan, Israel Folau, Tom Robertson, Jake Gordon. Conversions: Bernard Foley (3).