JOHANNESBURG – Well, that was a massacre!
A hiding was always on the cards, but not even the most confident Lions supporter could have imagined the beating the Lions would inflict on the Sunwolves at Ellis Park on Saturday.
In their first game back after the June international break, the Lions ran in 14 tries to just the one of the Sunwolves in a game where the home team dominated from start to finish.
It was certainly one of the most one-sided Super Rugby matches in history, with the only area of the game where the visitors came up trumps being the number of tackles made and missed.
For the rest, the Lions completely dominated proceedings and closed the gap on the log-leading Crusaders to just two points, with both teams having one game to play in the regular season.
Neither side will be in action next weekend as the New Zealanders are still busy with the British and Irish Lions tour, while the Lions have a bye.
But on the last weekend of the regular season, the Crusaders will visit the Hurricanes and the Lions will visit the Sharks to determine who finishes top of the pile after 15 matches.
That team will have the benefit of playing at home in the playoffs and give themselves the best chance of going all the way.
Right now the Crusaders have 63 log points, while the Lions have 61. It’s all to play for on the final weekend – in two weeks from now.
There were, understandably and obviously, several stars of the Lions team, starting upfront with Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, and the loose trio of Ruan Ackermann, Kwagga Smith and new skipper Jaco Kriel, and at the back Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Combrinck.
And, from the bench, Faf de Klerk, who slotted in at flyhalf in the second half and produced a stunning performance.
The Lions hardly missed regular skipper Warren Whiteley, who is out of the competition with a pelvic injury, as they ran the visitors ragged.
The home team produced a quite sensational display of attacking rugby, running at the Sunwolves from all parts and with several of their players featuring in the moves that led to the 14 tries.
Coach Johan Ackermann wanted an emphatic performance after the June Test break and he got it.
With several in-form Springbok players who were also on song against France in the three-Test series, the Lions kicked on from where they left off at the end of May and are now well on their way to being a real contender in the playoffs.
After scoring five first-half tries, the home team kicked on after the halftime break and added a further nine five-pointers.
Jantjies kicked superbly at goal, too, slotting six conversions before he left the field in the second half, along with the majority of the Bok stars.
But as good as the Lions were with ball-in-hand, the Sunwolves were hugely disappointing in defence.
For a side guaranteed a place in a downscaled competition next year, they simply have to up their game if they’re to avoid further embarrassment in 2018.
For now though, the Lions – and their supporters – can celebrate and enjoy what was a wonderfully entertaining performance; exactly what Ackermann demands from his players.
Lions 94 – Tries: Ross Cronjé, Jaco Kriel (2), Aaron Smith (2), Elton Jantjies, Akker van der Merwe, Ruan Combrinck (3), Courtnall Skosan, Faf de Klerk, Sylvian Mahuza, Ruan Ackermann. Conversions: Jantjies (6), Combrinck (5), De Klerk (1).
Sunwolves 7 – Try: Uwe Helu. Conversion: Jumpei Ogura (1).