JOHANNESBURG - With a perfect 15 points in the bag from three games, the Lions are sitting pretty at the top of the Currie Cup standings. And they can take a giant leap in the race to secure top spot in a few weeks’ time if they manage to beat Western Province this weekend.
The men from the Cape also have a blemish-free record, but have only played two games. At the half-way stage of the 2018 Currie Cup, the Lions (three games) are out in front with 15 points, followed by the Sharks (also three games, and 15 points), the Bulls (four games, 12 points), and WP (two games, 10 points).
The other three teams in the Premier Division - the Pumas (one from three for six points), Griquas (nought from three for three points) and Free State (nought from four for two points) - don’t look like they will be in contention to play in the semi-finals.
The Lions, after earlier wins against Griquas and the Blue Bulls, ran in seven tries to down the second-string Cheetahs 47-14 at Ellis Park on Saturday. They led 33-0 at the half-time break.
“It would be wrong to say we’re not happy (with a three from three start),” said Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen. “We’re obviously very happy with the first half performance, while we learnt a lot in the second half.
"Credit to the Cheetahs though; they came back strongly and kept us pinned in our half. Western Province will be a ‘goodie’ this week; they’re the defending champions and are in good form.”
The Lions’ backs, with flyhalf Shaun Reynolds leading the way with two tries and many more points from his kicking boot, were particularly destructive with ball in hand on Saturday. Sylvian Mahuza also grabbed a brace of tries, while centres Howard Mnisi and Lionel Mapoe bossed the midfield.
“Shaun played well ... he’s been playing well for a while now,” enthused Van Rooyen. “It’s nice that he is taking on some responsibility. And, as we’ve seen, if our set-piece works well, we’ve got exciting backs out wide. When we give them the ball they can be very dangerous.”
Asked what he and his Lions had gained by facing a second-string Cheetahs side - with the first choice players running out in the Europe-based Pro14 competition - Van Rooyen said: “It’s not a watered down (Cheetahs) team; lots of those guys have played Currie Cup rugby before, and also Varsity Cup rugby. It’s not their A-team but it’s also not our first choice team.”
The Lions are missing several first choice players who’re either playing club rugby in Japan or turning out for the Springboks in the Rugby Championship. Saturday’s match against Western Province kicks off at 3pm at Ellis Park.