Last week, the Cheetahs; this week, the Stormers – the Lions are well and truly back!
It’s one thing beating a sloppy Cheetahs side; it’s quite another annihilating the Stormers – a side packed with Springboks and South Africa’s most consistent squad in recent years. It was the Lions’ first win over the men from the Cape in 10 matches in Super Rugby, a remarkable achievement when you consider the Lions weren’t playing Super Rugby a year ago.
It was a monumental effort by Johan Ackermann’s team, particularly in defence in the second period, and all the players will be hailed as heroes today, but one man did stand out – flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff.
The No 10 was the destroyer in chief against the Cheetahs and last night he was again the stand-out performer. Boshoff scored a scintillating 29 points – six penalties, three drop goals and a conversion to lead his team’s charge.
The Lions were full value for their victory. They started like a team on a mission and scored their try virtually from the kick-off. Centre Stefan Watermeyer finished off after a superb counter-attack from deep and after captain Warren Whiteley had ghosted his way through the much-vaunted Stormers defence.
Just eight minutes later the hosts were in total control after Boshoff had slotted two drop-goals, the second from the halfway line, to go with his earlier conversion.
Matters got a whole lot better for the Lions when Demetri Catrakilis missed a shot at goal and Boshoff nailed two penalties to give his side a commanding 19-0 lead.
But it was far from being just the Boshoff show. The Lions matched everything the Stormers threw at them, physically dominating the visitors in the tackle and competing aggressively at the breakdowns. Not even the likes of Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen or Siya Kolisi could make an impact, while the Stormers’ backs were also cut down every time they got the ball.
It was telling then that when the visitors won a penalty in front of the posts on 21 minutes, they opted to kick to touch and set up the line-out. The move paid off when Scarra Ntubeni went over for his team’s first points.
Burger left the field six minutes before the break and at the same time Boshoff slotted a third penalty to put his side further ahead. Catrakilis did convert a late penalty to give his team hope with the second half beckoning.
The Lions continued to defend manfully after the restart when the Stormers set up camp inside the 22m area – Boshoff and Alwyn Hollenbach once combining to stop a charging Vermeulen on the tryline.
And even though they lost lock Franco Mostert to the sin bin, it was the Lions who extended their lead in the 51st minute when Boshoff converted a fourth penalty.
But if the Lions did the bulk of the playing in the first half it was the Stormers who took charge of the second period. Whatever Allister Coetzee said to his players at the break, it certainly fired them up.
The Stormers were much improved and asked much of the Lions, but no matter how hard they tried, the Lions’ defence keep them at bay – even when they lost a second man, Julian Redelinghuys, to the sin bin, on 55 minutes.
And if the visitors felt deflated after getting no reward for their efforts, they would have felt absolutely shattered when, with 15 minutes to go, in a rare entry by the Lions into Stormers territory, Boshoff nailed a third drop goal.
A little while later the No 10 also knocked over a penalty. He made it six penalties, sealing the deal with the last kick - Weekend Argus.