JOHANNESBURG – Who’s going to stop the Lions?
After two average performances against the Jaguares (at home) and the Western Force (in Perth last week), Johan Ackermann’s men were back to their scintillating best on Saturday morning when they ran in six tries to easily get the better of the Rebels in Melbourne.
It was their ninth win in 10 matches – and their seventh on the trot – with their only defeat coming at the hands of the Jaguares the first time they faced each other in round three in Buenos Aires.
Next up for the Lions on their tour of Australia are the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday, and a further victory would virtually secure the men from Joburg a playoff spot. They are already well placed to feature at home in the playoffs.
But the question is, who will beat this Lions team when they are in the right frame of mind and on top of their game – as they were in Melbourne on Saturday?
They are just so consistent in everything they do; the players know what their roles are, and they play with pace and skill. They also apply pressure throughout the 80 minutes and their handling, running lines and support play are just better than many teams they come up against.
Sure, their hosts aren’t the toughest opponents and have won only once this year, but it was still an away game for the Lions and the Rebels have plenty to play for at this stage of their existence – their survival in the competition.
Yet it was Ackermann’s men who dominated the encounter from start to finish.
They enjoyed the majority of possession and territory throughout the game, but especially in the first period, they tackled strongly when they were under pressure in the second spell and they scored some thrilling tries.
Kwagga Smith finished off the first five-pointer when he benefited from Elton Jantjies taking a quick-tap penalty after 20 minutes and five minutes later, scrumhalf Ross Cronjé did brilliantly to score after Malcolm Marx had broken off a maul to send his scrumhalf to the line.
The Rebels got back into the contest temporarily on the half-hour mark when centre Tom English scored against the run of play, but before the break, the Lions made it three tries in the first stanza when Courtnall Skosan showed great pace out wide to go over.
The second half belonged solely to the visitors, with wing Sylvian Mahuza opening the scoring for his team with a stunner of a try – he ran from his own half and beat several defenders before dotting down.
He was followed to the tryline by replacement wing Anthony Volmink, who also showed great pace to out-run the Rebels men.
In between those scores, the Lions were awarded a penalty try when their hosts brought down a driving maul.
With Ackermann ringing the changes at the end, the Lions upped their tempo and scored a sixth try by captain Warren Whiteley in the 80th minute, to go with the penalty try, to seal an emphatic victory.
Rebels 10 – Try: Tom English. Conversion: Reece Hodge (1). Penalty: Hodge (1).
Lions 47 – Tries: Kwagga Smith, Ross Cronjé, Courtnall Skosan, Sylvian Mahuza, Penalty Try, Anthony Volmink, Warren Whiteley. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5).