Jesse Kriel tries to force his way through, but Courtnall Skosan and Kwagga Smith holds on at Ellis Park on Saturday night. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Sensational! The Lions have produced some memorable Super Rugby performances in the last three years, but it’s doubtful they have put together a 40-minute showing as good as their first-half effort in a 51-14 triumph over the Bulls on Saturday night.

They were outstanding in everything they did and the Bulls had no answer. Johan Ackermann’s men were simply ruthless with ball-in-hand, they played with pace and width, aggression and power and had the game sewn up by halftime.

What they dished up in the first 40 minutes was a joy to watch, and it laid the foundation for a comfortable victory against their northern neighbours; the Lions’ 11th win in 12 games.

For the Bulls, it was their eighth defeat in 11 matches.

Ackermann’s team were excellent last season and especially in downing the Highlanders and Crusaders in consecutive weeks in the knockout rounds en route to the final, but they were better this time around. They were clinical, lethal and hugely entertaining.

Let’s be honest; the Lions have taken rugby in this country to a new level, and no one locally can match them.

And to think this Lions team only arrived back in the country on Sunday after spending three weeks in Australia where, in their last game against the Brumbies, they were asked to make nearly 150 tackles in an energy-sapping affair.

But they showed no signs of fatigue against the Bulls and actually looked fitter and stronger than their opponents when the final whistle blew.

In the end the home team scored seven wonderful tries, five of them in the first half. It could have been a whole lot more but for the Bulls putting in an excellent second-half defensive display, while Elton Jantjies also lost the ball in the process of going over the tryline late in the game.

The flyhalf, though, enjoyed a high-quality outing. He varied his game excellently, kicked well out of hand – chip kicks and even kick-passes – ran strongly, distributed beautifully and stood tall in defence. And then there’s his goal-kicking, which he’s taken to a new level this season.

There were several stars for the Lions, men like Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Ross Cronjé... but none grabbed the attention quite like Ruan Combrinck.

The Springbok winger scored two outstanding tries and showed he is ready to play Test rugby again.

Elton Jantjies was the conductor once more for the Lions against the Bulls. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

There are some players who are made for the big time, the big stage, and Combrinck is one of them.

He returned to action rather unexpectedly after not being considered for the team following his shoulder operation last December, but got his chance when Sylvian Mahuza pulled out on the eve of the match.

Well, talk about a return to action. After featuring for the Golden Lions in two low-key matches in the last month, he scored with his first touch of the ball in the second minute.

After the Lions had gone wide, Combrinck received the ball with several Bulls players in front of him, chipped it ahead, gathered it and went over in the corner.

It reminded one of the wonderful try he scored in the same corner when he debuted for the Springboks as a replacement against Ireland in the second Test last June.

Combrinck would later score a second try, again going in at the corner when the Lions had decided to play on after the hooter had sounded for halftime.

In between Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer and Whiteley scored memorable five-pointers.

All the Bulls could show for their efforts were tries by Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel in the first half, the two players being the stand-out performers for their team.

The Lions “slacked off” in the second spell, even though they still dominated proceedings and garnered further tries by Mostert and Lionel Mapoe.

The Lions will now focus on the Kings, who visit Joburg next Saturday, while the Bulls must prepare for a meeting with the Hurricanes in Pretoria.


Lions 51 – Tries: Ruan Combrinck (2), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (5). Penalties: Jantjies (2).

Bulls 14 – Tries: Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel. Conversions: Francois Brummer (2).

Independent Media