Lions beat Sharks in 12-try thriller in Joburg
JOHANNESBURG – Without the consequences of a championship in the minds of players and coaches alike, supporters were treated to a theatre of running rugby as the Lions and Sharks duked it out in their preparation match at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
From the first moment of the encounter, it was apparent that both teams were here to play running rugby, attacking the gainline at every opportunity. No quarter was given to taking penalties at goal, or playing a territorial game as all out attack was the name of the game. It saw 12 tries scored during the match, six of them in the first half alone, as both sides threw caution to the wind.
It resulted in some magnificent tries, including one from Fassi from the Sharks own 22, and more impressively a full field score, dotted down by Tiaan Swanepoel, five minutes later in the 14th minute. If all their industriousness was focussed on attacking through open-play and the maul, then the one area that suffered was the scrum.
It was mostly a messy affair, with several resets and referee Rasta Rashivenge losing his patience with that particular set-piece, pinging both teams for any indiscretions early in the match onwards. The Lions will feel that they will gain the most from that particular set-piece, especially Ruan Dreyer who held his own at loose-head. So, too, will they feel that in defence they were the better team, despite leaking so many tries, although in a match so focussed on attack, that too suffered and was not at its best.
Without cause-and-effect in play, the decision making was also questionable at best, but with higher stakes to play for in the season ahead, that will be rectified, no doubt.
In terms of systems relating to building try-scoring opportunities, both teams will be quite pleased. Their backline played a major part in dotting down behind the white-wash, running with intent and glee, and showcasing impressive pace that cut open both defensive lines. By contrast the second half was more of a tussle on the ground, which resulted in more fractured play, and both Lions and Sharks trying to take advantage, only for their handling, lack of control, composure and control of possession to conspire against them.
Standard stuff for a pre-season game then.
Two tries in the last 10 minutes by Nuthuko Mchunu, the second a brilliant sprint to the line by the burly prop, ensured a tight finish. The Lions loose-trio of Francke Horn, a bulkled up Vincent Tshituka, especially, and MJ Pelser, were arguably the biggest difference in the victory as they all worked hard with ball in hand and the breakdown, swinging it in favour of the Joburgers by the narrowest of margins.
If not for cramp, however, the Lions would have secured the victory in regular time but Wandisile Simelan, who had a much more industrious second half, fell over himself with the tryline begging in the final minutes of the match. In the end, and against all that had preceded it, Tiaan Swanepoel slotted over the only penalty attempt at goal to secure a close, yet entertaining victory, although neither team will be particularly content with their final display.
Lions (26) 43 – Tries: Selengbe, Swanepoel, Tshituka, Skosan, Campher, Simelane; Conversions: Swanepoel (2), Jantjies (3), Penalty: Swanepoel; Yellow Card: Sadie
Sharks (14) 40 – Tries: Fassi, Kok, Richardson (2), Mchunu (2); Conversions: Chamberlain (3), Bosch (2)