Lions’ amazing unbeaten run continues
With home games to come against Western Province and Griquas in the next fortnight Johan Ackermann’s Lions look ready to finish in top spot on the Absa Currie Cup points table and book a home semi-final and, possibly, a home final.
The Lions’ remarkable unbeaten run – which has seen them win eight times on the trot and collect a staggering 38 points from a possible 40 – is likely to culminate in two further matches at Ellis Park, in the knockout rounds.
Everything, of course, depends on what Ackermann’s men achieve against third-placed Western Province on Friday and then Griquas in their final round-robin match.
But, with a nine-point lead atop the standings – the Bulls are second with 29, with Western Province third on the same amount of points – only a inconceivable slump in form will prevent the Joburg team from holding their destiny in their own hands.
Second and third place will be a shoot-out between the Bulls and Western Province, while the Cheetahs look favourites to finish fourth, but the Sharks are not quite done yet. The Pumas, EP Kings and Griquas will all be involved in a battle to avoid finishing last and having to play a promotion-relegation tie against the winners of the First Division.
The Lions cemented their place at the top of the pile with their biggest win of the season on Saturday, running in 10 converted tries against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Ackermann’s men dominated from start to finish, with several players enjoying a memorable outing.
Courtnall Skosan and Jaco Kriel got two tries each, while No8 Warren Whiteley marked his return to the team with a try, but also a yellow card.
Flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff continued his stunning campaign by slotting every kick at goal – 11 in total, from 10 conversions and a penalty.
Western Province, big winners against the Pumas on Saturday, will be a threat to the Lions at Ellis Park this weekend, but they’re going to have to play some stunning rugby if the Lions are to be denied a ninth win in a row. With so much riding on the result it should be one of the more tightly fought clashes this season.
The Bulls stayed second in the standings after winning a tough battle against the Sharks in Durban on Friday and they’ll likely to pick up a further five points to keep alive their chances of finishing second when they host the EP Kings.
The men from Port Elizabeth have been much improved in recent weeks and picked up a second win of their campaign when they beat Griquas in a thrilling tie in Port Elizabeth.
They’ll do well though to push the Bulls for 80 minutes.
Franco Smith’s Cheetahs make the trip to Nelspruit on Saturday looking to gain more ground in their attempt to make the play-offs, but the Pumas are always tough on home soil and this weekend will be no different.
At the same time, the Sharks face a tricky outing in Kimberley where they, too, have to win to at least give themselves a chance on the final weekend of slipping into the play-off places.
EP Kings 40, Griquas 37; WP 50, Pumas 19; Cheetahs 31, Lions 73; Sharks 13, Bulls 17
Friday: Lions v WP 6pm; Bulls v Kings 7.10pm
Saturday: Pumas v Cheetahs 1.15pm; Griquas v Sharks 3pm - The Star