The Golden Lions secured their spot in this year’s Currie Cup semifinals with a 33-21 victory over the Pumas in Mbombela on Friday night, but they won’t look back on this game particularly fondly.
In many respects, this was a pretty poor advertisement for South Africa’s hallowed, badly-treated domestic competition.
Discipline was a major problem for both sides and the handling, at times, pretty embarrassing.
Yet the experience of the Lions’ backline was eventually telling as they delivered enough moments of class to keep the hosts at bay.
But to think this was essentially a quarterfinal isn’t a comforting thought.
Who was the star in this match?
There were a lot of bright moments from the Lions’ wise men, but only Lionel Mapoe really kept his standards high throughout the 80 minutes. The Springbok centre was energetic on attack, especially in snaffling a crucial intercept try right at the start, and the heart of the defensive effort. It sometimes felt as if he’s too good to play at this provincial level.
Key moments and themes
- Arguably the biggest theme from this match was a broader one. Why exactly this tournament needed a two-week break is a mystery. It clearly disrupted these two teams’ momentum through no fault of their own. For a tournament battling for relevance and survival, the suits can’t make scheduling decisions like this because it delivers sloppy games such as this one.
- The Lions will be working on their ruthlessness ahead of next week’s semi as they generally created a lot of opportunities at a venue where visiting teams don’t always enjoy much ascendancy. They left at least four scoring opportunities unused and will have to get their rolling substitutions among their props right as this led to some disruption in the scrums at times.
- For their part, the Pumas were very much competitive but they’ll need to find a new dimension to their attacking play if they want to have a bigger say in this tournament in future. They rely far too much on playing percentage rugby and it makes them inflexible and predictable. It didn’t help that their kicking, especially in the first half, was poor.
Pumas – Tries: Devon Williams, Francois Kleinhans, Ryan Nell. Conversions: Kobus Marais (2), Chris Smith.
Lions – Tries: Corne Fourie (2), Courtnall Skosan (2), Lionel Mapoe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (4).