Henco Venter of Toyota Cheetahs is tackled by Vincent Tshituka of the Golden Lions during the 2019 Currie Cup game between Free State and the Golden Lions at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein. Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – They’re halfway through their league campaign and the Lions are sitting pretty in second spot on the log as the only unbeaten team in this year’s Currie Cup competition.

Ivan van Rooyen’s men have won three out of three, with three to play, in the round-robin stage.

They have 13 log points, two less than Griquas, who lead the way, but have played four games. In third place are Free State, with 11 points from three games, and fourth are Western Province, with seven points from three.

Van Rooyen and Co though will be somewhat concerned the Lions have had to pull off three quite astonishing second half comebacks for their three wins; the latest being last Friday’s 24-22 win against Free State in Bloemfontein.

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Earlier, they’d also come back from the dead virtually to beat the Pumas (38-37) and Western Province (30-28).

“It’s been a good learning experience for the youngsters,” said Van Rooyen after his side’s win against the Free Staters. “We had players in the team who’d never played in Bloemfontein before, so for them to pull it off is a big positive. I’m really proud of the effort, but yes, a lot of these guys are learning on the fly.”

Shaun Reynolds scored the winning penalty against the Cheetahs on Friday. Photo: Frikkie Kapp/BackpagePix

At one stage the Lions trailed 19-0, but scored three tries either side of half-time to pull ahead and then flyhalf Shaun Reynolds slotted a last-gasp penalty to hand his side the win.

“We’ve got lots to work on, so it’s back to the drawing board for us,” admitted Van Rooyen. “It was, however, nice to see the fight in the youngsters.”

Next up for the Lions will be the Blue Bulls, who have had a nightmare start to their campaign. They’ve won just once in four matches and prop up the points table in seventh position with a paltry five points.

Their only win came against the Pumas (25-17) two weekends ago and they go into this week on the back of a 37-15 defeat by Griquas.

Van Rooyen and his coaching team will hope for some good news on seasoned No 8 Warren Whiteley this week. The regular captain targeted this weekend’s match as his possible comeback game following a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

It is, however, unlikely two other experienced campaigners - wing Courtnall Skosan and flank Cyle Brink - will be ready to play this week, if at all this season.

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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