NELSPRUIT – The Lions edged the Pumas in a hard-fought final round Currie Cup clash in Nelspruit on Friday to advance to the semi-finals next weekend.
With Springboks Lionel Mapoe and Elton Jantjies back in the team following the conclusion of the Rugby Championship, the Lions looked a cut above their opponents, but they were made to work hard for their victory.
Mapoe was the star of the match as he scored his team’s first try and had a hand in two others. Fellow Bok wing Courtnall Skosan scored a brace, as did hooker Corne Fourie.
The rest of the semi-finalists, and who the Lions will face next weekend, will be determined on Saturday.
Although a tight and fairly close encounter, the Lions dominated proceedings throughout the match and enjoyed the majority of possession and the territorial advantage from the outset.
The ever-impressive Mapoe crossed the whitewash as early as the second minute after intercepting a poor pass by Pumas scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, and while the home team quickly levelled matters through a converted try by fullback Devin Williams, the Lions were soon in front again.
Hooker Fourie finished off after a quality lineout win and drive by his team-mates, but the Pumas hit back for the second time when loose-forward Francois Kleinhans scored after the Lions had lost Howard Mnisi to the sin-bin.
The Lions though restored their seven-point cushion just before the break when Mapoe bust through several Pumas players and offloaded to a charging Skosan who scored his team’s third try of the half. And that wasn’t the only blow suffered by the home team at the halfway stage; they also lost Kleinhans to the sin-bin and started the second half playing with just 14 men.
Severe lightning around the Mbombela Stadium delayed the start of the second half, but when proceedings did get underway the Lions quickly took charge. Skosan got his second try in the 48th minute when the ball was spread wide following a turn-over win and not long after that Fourie got his second, too, again from a lineout drive.
Pumas centre and captain Ryan Nell then scored his team’s third try with just over 10 minutes to go to ensure it would be an interesting finish to the teams’ league campaigns. The Lions though hung on for the win and will feature in the playoffs next weekend.
Results from Nelspruit:
Pumas (14) 21
Tries: Williams, Kleinhans, Nell; Conversions: Smith, Marais (2)
Lions (21) 33
Tries: Mapoe, Fourie (2), Skosan (2); Conversions: Jantjies (3)