Jordan Hendrikse kicks Lions to victory in Challenge Cup opener against Perpignan

Jordan Hendrikse scored 23 points with his boot as the Lions opened their European Challenge Cup campaign with a win against Perpignan on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Jordan Hendrikse scored 23 points with his boot as the Lions opened their European Challenge Cup campaign with a win against Perpignan on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Dec 10, 2023


A motley crew of Lions went to the Pyrenees-saddled city of Perpignan in southern France unheralded, but will return to South Africa on Tuesday as unlikely heroes, after they ensured the team started their EPCR Challenge Cup campaign with a workman-like victory over the embattled Top 14 club.

An untested Perpignan, also full of fringe players, suffered from an unshakable malaise on Sunday afternoon and were unable to construct any pressure with their home ground advantage in hand. Try as they might while attempting to move the Lions around with sweeping backline moves, particularly in the first half, they suffered from an infuriating inability to make anything stick.

Their inaccuracy kept the visitors in the game, regardless of how pleasing they were to watch at times, and ultimately cost them the result. For sure, the Lions’ approach will not revolutionise the game but when it mattered, they made the right decisions, while their game-management was on point.

With Perpignan blunted in their attack, they could only make the Lions pay through the unerring boot of Jean-Pascal Barraque. The full-back slotted over four penalties in the first stanza as the Lions committed disciplinary errors, especially with their work-rate on the ground.

Eventually, those opportunities dried up, too, as sustained pressure from the Lions, starting in the final 10 minutes for the first half and extending throughout the second stanza, suffocated any of Perpignan’s plans. The Lions will probably feel they should have scored more than the singular try during the encounter but will not care about that one iota that they failed to do so.

If they are honest with themselves, they will admit that their attack during the match was somewhat uninspired, with Perpignan managing them through their defence; and the unfortunate mistakes in possession they made.

Indeed, this Lions team lacked the creativity and understanding to perhaps attempt anything else. They were certainly far too lateral with ball in hand, while also far too passive in their approach.

On the one occasion they did show a spark of inspiration, Rabs Maxwane scored a nifty little try from a chip-kick from Andries Coetzee in the ninth minute. They battled to emulate that play in the face of some staunch defence and also due to their own inaccuracies.

Again, they will not care for what they did manage to do well, was pin the Blood and Gold in their own half, especially in the second half. The introduction of the versatile Izan Esterhuizen was especially telling, as the 22-year-old – slotting in at lock — brought real mongrel to the proceedings.

That ensured that at every indiscretion that Perpignan committed, Jordan Hendrikse – who was solid, if not spectacular at flyhalf – could step up to the tee and extend the Lions’ lead with his trusty boot. He was largely on target during the afternoon, missing only one kick of his nine attempts.

The young No 10 scored 23 points to be awarded the Player of the Match honour and by the 69th minute he had built his team an unassailable 16-point buffer, leading the Lions to a satisfactory triumph.


Perpignan 12 — Penalties: Perez (4)

Lions 28 — Try: Maxwane; Conversion: Hendrikse; Penalties: Hendrikse (7)

IOL Sport