JOHANNESBURG – The Golden Lions made it three Currie Cup wins in a row when they edged their neighbours the Blue Bulls 36-33 in a hotly contested match that was only settled in the final minutes here on Saturday evening.
Following wins against the Pumas and Griquas, Swys de Bruin’s men showed glimpses of their attacking best on home soil to stay in the race for the semi-finals, with three regular season matches remaining.
The Bulls now have it all to do, having registered just three wins from eight matches.
This was a hugely entertaining battle and a real ding-dong affair, with neither side ever being completely on top and in charge.
The visitors dominated the early exchanges, with their handling particularly impressive. And it came as no surprise when lock Ruben van Heerden found a big hole in the defence after just seven minutes to get his team on the board.
The Lions though hit back almost immediately and asked several questions from their lineout drive.
In fact, the Bulls did superbly to stop the Lions’ drive on three occasions around the 20-minute mark, but when Bulls flank Jannes Kirsten was sin-binned for repeated infringing by his team, the visitors’ defences crumbled.
It allowed Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee to eventually find his way over the line after yet another lineout win.
But the Lions, too – and for the umpteenth time this season – lost a man to the bin, this time lock Andries Ferreira in the 21st minute after he took out fellow second-row forward Aston Fortuin in the air.
And the Bulls also made it count, as the Lions had done a few minutes earlier, when Jano Venter crashed over from the resulting lineout.
It was then the turn of the barnstorming Rohan Janse van Rensburg to show off his power and skills.
He first ran a great line to score in the 26th minute to help draw his team level following Jaco van der Walt’s conversion, and then six minutes later, he collected Harold Vorster’s chip kick into space and powered past several Bulls men to dot down.
The home team got their fourth try on the stroke of halftime when captain Jacques van Rooyen barged over from yet another lineout drive.
The Lions may have led by 12 at the break, but there was not much between the teams. And when replacement back Johnny Kotze went over in the corner for the Bulls six minutes after the resumption and Warrick Gelant scored a screamer in the 66th minute – with Marnitz Boshoff converting both tries – the Bulls led 28-26 with 13 to go.
The see-saw encounter then quickly turned in favour of the home team. Van der Walt slotted a penalty minutes after Gelant’s try to put the Lions ahead again, and soon after that, Aphiwe Dyantyi won the race to a bouncing ball that had been chipped into space by Marco Jansen van Vuren to score his team’s fifth try.
It seemed all over, with the Lions eight clear, but this enthralling encounter was far from done.
From the restart the Bulls scored their fifth try through replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar, but the missed conversion by Manie Libbok left the visitors three points in arrears. And that’s how this hugely entertaining Currie Cup clash would finish; the Lions victors by three.
Golden Lions 36 – Tries: Robbie Coetzee, Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2), Jacques van Rooyen, Aphiwe Dyantyi. Conversions: Jaco van der Walt (4). Penalty: Van der Walt (1).
Bulls 33 – Tries: Ruben Van Heerden, Jano Venter, Johnny Kotze, Warrick Gelant, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (4).