Johannesburg – The Golden Lions validated their status as pre-tournament favourites when they beat the Blue Bulls 41-13 at Ellis Park Stadium on Saturday taking the full complement of points from the match courtesy of four tries.
Playing in their original navy blue and white strip from 125 years ago, the Lions lay down the marker early on in the trans-Jukskei Derby.
Although both teams jogged out in blue kit, it was the team with the darker hue that impressed as they got quick ball to keep the Bulls on their toes.
The Lions built some confidence through their scrum, while the loose trio of captain Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel and Derick Minnie were energetic in the loose and at the breakdowns which gave the side good go-forward ball.
The hosts made an impressive start to the match as some good interplay ended in the first try of the match four minutes after the start.
Winger Ruan Combrinck supplied the spark as he fielded a high ball before outside centre Stokkies Hanekom stepped his way to the tryline, first going outside before dancing back inside to score, with flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff converting.
The Bulls narrowed the gap through a Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalty conversion in the eighth minute before Boshoff also added a penalty goal five minutes later.
On the quarter hour mark Boshoff slotted a drop goal for a 10-point lead before extending the advantage with a penalty conversion eight minutes from the break.
The Lions struck a debilitating blow as the Bulls strung their most promising attack together only to see Combrinck intercept a Potgieter pass for an unchallenged sprint to the tryline, with Boshoff adding the two points for a 23-3 lead.
After the recess the Bulls started chipping away at the Lions' lead starting the half with a try that seemed too easy as they spread the ball through the hands to winger Sampie Mastriet, who scored in the left-hand corner.
Potgieter converted the five-pointer before he added a penalty goal in the 48th minute to shrink the deficit to 10 points.
Boshoff retired hurt to hand over the baton to the 20-year-old Jaco van der Walt, who added a three-pointer to the score shortly after stepping onto the field.
At the turn of the final quarter, Van der Walt scored his second penalty goal of the night to hand his side a 29-13 lead.
In the 65th minute fiery flanker Jaco Kriel scored his side's third try of the match after his team won a turnover, which allowed winger Lionel Mapoe to break the line and put Kriel away with a short pass, with Van der Walt converting.
The Lions were made to work for their bonus-point try but found it at the death when they set up a maul from a lineout which saw Warwick Tecklenburg taking the points from the back, with Van der Walt missing the conversion.
Scorers: Golden Lions 41 (23): Tries: Stokkies Hanekom, Ruan Combrinck, Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (2), Jaco van der Walt.
Penalties: Boshoff (2), Van der Walt (2). Drop goal: Boshoff.
Blue Bulls 13 (3): Try: Sampie Mastriet. Conversion:
Jacques-Louis Potgieter. Penalties: Potgieter (2). – Sapa