Full-back Tiaan Swanepoel kicked four penalty kicks to see the Lions claim a last-gasp 22-19 victory over Western Province in Ellis Park on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The win moves the Lions above the Free State Cheetahs to fourth place aboard the Currie Cup and trails Western Province, which grabbed a losing bonus point, by just one point.
It was an insightful, if at times skilful, return from the Lions, who looked the most intimidating team with a ball in hand in what appeared to be difficult conditions in Johannesburg. Ivan van Rooyen’s side are back in the fight for a playoff spot.
Despite drastically dragging 10 points in the second half, the home team never got out of the contest, with Swanepoel’s big boot keeping them in the game. The 24-year-old Namibian-born player was starting his first Currie Cup but looking comfortable and confident. Most striking, of course, was that he slotted a couple of long-range penalties in the first half, one of which came from well over 60 meters.
Tiaan Swanepoel was magnificent with his big kicks??
– Breyton Paulse (@BreytonPaulse) December 5, 2020
By contrast, Provincial struggled to build any kind of pressure off the set piece, where Steven Kitshoff was dominant against Ruan Dreyer. Their best piece of play in the first half, where they managed to put together six hits, rewarded them with a penalty kick that converted Tim Swiel to give them a 9-6 lead at the break.
The Province’s brightest period came in the second half as they began to build more weight with the ball by taking it through more periods. The visitors landed a stunning blow when Senatla and Nel effectively combined to send the first over for his first try of the campaign.
Nel, however, was probably the striking player besides Kitshoff. The 29-year-old player was back in his favorable position in the middle outside and apart from assisting Senatla, he brought his own defense as seconds later he won a turnover penalty kick on his own train as the Lions began chasing the game.
However, a moment of inspiration from Stean Pienaar drew the Lions level again, as the wing grabbed a quick tap penalty inside Province 22 and cut through a couple of tacky attempts before reaching over to score.
Isn’t that pretty? https://t.co/lqU921kgS2 pic.twitter.com/bQ4ZVN47ri
– Xerox Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) December 5, 2020
Questions will have to be asked about the impact of the Provincial bench, especially as coach John Dobson opted for a six-to-two split between forwards and backs to ensure they stay up late in the height of the contest.
In the event, the Lions got a WP run in the final 15 minutes and were unlucky not to grab another try, winning the match instead as Swanepoel slotted his fourth penalty kick. This was the second weekend in a row that the Provincial bench has not provided the needed impact and the Cape side’s hopes of holding a semi-final, at least in its current form, are rapidly diminishing.
Lions – Quests: Stean Pienaar. Conversions: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Swanepoel (4), Jantjies.
Western Province – Trivia: Seabelo Senatla. Convert: Tim Swiel. Penalties: Swiel (4).
Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Odendaal Burger, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (c), 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts , 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithole Sti.
Subs: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Roelof Smit, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Dan Kriel.
Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs (of): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Marcel Theunissen, 21 Johan du Toit, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tristan Leyds.
Photo: @ LionsRugbyCo / Twitter