JOHANNESBURG - Griquas shouted the odds from the get-go, while the Lions murmured amongst themselves at first and then finally roared into life, but ultimately it was the weather that had the final say in their Carling Currie Cup encounter.
And thankfully for the Lions, when lightning and thunder rolled over Kimberley on a blustery Saturday afternoon, the Joburgers were on the right side of the record book, pulling off, perhaps even burgling, a 20-17 victory.
During the first 30 minutes, the Doornfontein-based side seemed lethargic.
They made numerous handling errors, while their forwards seemed out of sorts.
Their defence, one of their growing strengths, failed at times as first time tacklers fell away, and the Griquas punched holes in their line. There seemed to be forced intent to their play as they tried to run an expansive game without winning the contact areas first.
Before their encounter in Kimberley, the Lions had not played in three weeks and it showed.
Even so, credit must be given to the Griquas who took advantage of these early deficiencies, scoring three unanswered tries as they built an early, yet imposing, 17-3 lead.
Nonetheless, once the Lions’ machine finally got oiled, captain Elton Jantjies and Co showed their class, BMT and experience to lock out the game in a 15 minute period, started by the try of Courtnall Skosan – one of two for the perennial scorer – in the 36th minute.
Alas, 47 minutes is far too short a period to make a proper assessment on the Lions’ performance, and yet you’d imagine that Ivan van Rooyen will be peeved but also pleased with his charges, and the way they responded after being under the pump. Once they found their footing, and composure, their play clicked – the scrum once again becoming a powerful weapon, while their backs started to enjoy quick ball.
Ultimately, it was the reassertion of their pack’s dominance, shaky in the early exchanges, that won them the match when they were awarded a penalty try due to repeated infringements by the Griquas at scrum-time during the first few minutes of the second half.
Lions back EW Viljoen has been ruled out for between four and six week after a hamstring tear in the match against Griquas.
Xerox Lions Injury Update— Xerox Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) November 30, 2020
EW Viljoen sustained a Grade II tear of his R hamstring and will be out of action for approximately 4-6 weeks.
Hacjivah Dayimani underwent an operation on a meniscus (knee) last week. He will be out for at least 3 months. pic.twitter.com/OxeYELh9c6
The fullback limped off of the field in the 32nd minute and was replaced by Tiaan Swanepoel, who is currently employed as cover for Jantjies.
Jamba Ulengo could be an option at 15, and Van Rooyen can also call upon former Blue Bulls man and utility-back Divan Rossouw.
The coach will also hope that the abridged match time will be enough as the team prepares for the Western Province on Saturday (kick-off 7pm) at Emirates Airline Park in their second round encounter.
Thunder and lightning could strike twice on that day, such is the fickle nature of the Highveld’s weather, and the Lions must be in command of that game and the scoreboard from the start to ensure that they remain on the right side of the record.