Lions in pound seats

2011-08-27 22:41

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - Deservedly topping the Absa Currie Cup table at the midway mark, the Golden Lions have an opportunity over the next three weeks to put further daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.

Their upcoming trio of fixtures are all against the “non-Test” unions: Pumas (away), Griquas (home) and Leopards (away).

While ever-vigilant coach John Mitchell made the point, immediately after his charges had impressively seen of defending champions the Sharks 28-19 at a well-attended Ellis Park on Saturday, that even the smaller sides are rather more up for it this year, he will also know that the Lions could create unstoppable momentum if they get through all of these games unscathed.

If they play over that period with the same passion and mix-it-up ability they mustered in their latest encounter, they will make it extremely hard for anyone to haul them in.

The Lions undoubtedly made a strong bounce-back statement, after surrendering their unbeaten record to Western Province at Newlands last week, and will start the second round of matches with a clear-cut five-point lead over both WP and the Sharks, in second and third spots on the log respectively.

Their baby-faced flyhalf Elton Jantjies is blossoming increasingly now as a general, kicking flawlessly off the tee again on Saturday, making some decisive breaks or half-breaks, and also kicking out of hand most intelligently.

In addition, the Lions were able to welcome back, for a second-half burst, their popular inside centre and “extra fetcher” Doppies la Grange from a reasonably long-term injury, and managed this excellent victory without another cult figure, bearded loose forward and leader Josh Strauss.

Other pieces of the jigsaw are fitting nicely, too, with the pack working together diligently once more as a unit, and Lionel Mapoe starting to look encouragingly settled in midfield after earning his early first-class laurels mostly as an electric wing.

The hoo-ha about Jano Vermaak leaving in mid-campaign for arch-rivals the Blue Bulls has also faded with Michael Bondesio stepping into the scrumhalf void competently.

Perhaps the one factor that could yet see the Lions knocked off the “home final” perch, if they don’t cash in properly over the next three weeks, is that their last four round-robin matches are all toughies - Bulls (home), Cheetahs (away), WP (home) and a last outing that may be hugely influential, against the Sharks in their Durban stronghold.

Second-placed WP, meanwhile, still have to contemplate away matches against all of the other three sides in the top four at present ... the Lions, Sharks and Griquas.

It is to Kimberley that they go next weekend, well remembering that Griquas held them to a 26-26 draw in the opening round this season at Newlands.

The home team will also be buoyed by their latest scalp, the Cheetahs in a come-from-behind performance which saw them turn a 20-9 deficit at an advanced stage of the “derby” into a 23-20 triumph.

And next weekend doesn’t get too much easier for the Sharks, who lost Springbok Ryan Kankowski to an apparent neck injury halfway through the Lions reverse, as they return to the Highveld to play the awakening Blue Bulls.

Although they presently lie sixth, the Bulls are very much in the semi-final hunt as they are only four points adrift of fourth-placed Griquas.

The vibrancy of the 2011 competition thus far - even without so many top internationals gracing it - has surprised a few critics, this one included, and it ought to only get better as the race for last-four spots intensifies in coming weeks.

Next weekend’s fixtures:

Friday: Pumas v Lions, Nelspruit.

Saturday: Leopards v Cheetahs, Potchefstroom; Griquas v Western Province, Kimberley; Blue Bulls v Sharks, Pretoria.

All remaining matches for the current top three:

Lions (27 points): Pumas (a), Griquas (h), Leopards (a), Bulls (h), Cheetahs (a), WP (h), Sharks (a)

WP (22 points): Griquas (a), Leopards (h), Bulls (a), Cheetahs (h), Sharks (a), Lions (a), Pumas (h)

Sharks (22 points): Bulls (a), Pumas (h), Cheetahs (a), Griquas (h), WP (h), Leopards (a), Lions (h)


  • viam - 2011-08-28 07:37

    One thing rugby administrators have hopefully learned now: If a team performs well it draws the crowds to the statdium - wherever it is. Long live Eliis Park!!

      WPBLIKSEM - 2011-08-29 08:01

      FOR NOW ONLY?? Let's wait and see the currie cup final is played in October, not August- IDIOT!!!

  • pcundertaker - 2011-08-28 08:57

    Thanks lions you make us proud, and thanks for all the bets i've won

  • Greg - 2011-08-28 09:12

    It'd sound better if the headline read, "Lions in Currie Cup Pound Seats."

  • michael - 2011-08-28 09:55

    i was at the game yesterday it was a grate game go Lions win to stay on top of the log

  • Jm - 2011-08-28 10:05

    Has Waylon Murray fallen out of favor or is he injured?

      Big G - 2011-08-28 10:10

      Relax .. Waylon Murray is useless .. send him back to the Sharks ..

  • Ockie - 2011-08-28 10:08

    Well done Lions. Do not get over confident ... the smaller unions can cause upsets ... ask Cheatas and Sharks!

  • henniedotvanstaden - 2011-08-28 10:23

    Not even the S A Barbarian Team (SHARKS) could beat the Mighty Lions. WP beat them fairly, will turn tables around next time. Face it that Lions are great but they could only be beaten by a better team on the day. GO LIONS

  • Jm - 2011-08-28 10:29

    Thanks Skarel for the info.

  • Johann - 2011-08-28 10:57

    Congrats with log so far Lions, nice to watch these guys play, Jantjies near brilliant yesterday and so were a few others too. My Cheetahs will have to pick up their game big time.

  • Joe Soap - 2011-08-28 11:06

    Imagine just how unstoppable the Lions will be when we sort out our scrums and lineouts. Well done lads, keep it up.

  • Rugganut - 2011-08-28 11:18

    Sharks fan here: Unbelievable what a coach can do. Its taken J Mitchell, what about 6 months to turn this team around to not only win games but top the log comfortably. A team that do not have big names in it like the other unions. I wish that SARU would hire J Mitchell as Bok coach. I just love the style of rugby which they play (same goes for the Cheetahs) and I would love to see that style, even partially, implemented by the Boks. With all the young talent out there, I cant wait to see what the future Bok side will look like. I think Jantjies is definitely the top flyhalf in SA. He is strong, quick and has Quade Cooper-like skills and top of this, he has now improved his kicking accuracy and his ability to boss and control a match. Imagine the likes of him (Elton) at 10, Sarel Pretorius at 9, maybe Johann Sadie at 12 with Robert Ebersohn at 13 with Lambie at fullback. Then throw in Mvovo at 11 and leave JP Pietersen at 14. The future is looking bright!! We even spoilt for choice when it comes to depth, with the following replacements: Duvanage at 9 (and he can even play 10), Sias at 10, Riaan Viljoen at 15 (Lambie could then move to 12 when Riaan is on the field). And this only to mention but a few!!!! I dont even have to talk about the forwards because SA always has the best in abdundance!!! Coenie, M Van Der Merve, M Cotzee, N Koster, Kolisi, Arno Botha, Alberts, Deysel, Brussouw, Josh Strauss, Bekker, Elstad, Etzebeth, Minnie, Strauss, Bismarck, D Fourie, Libenburg

      saburger - 2011-08-28 13:40

      I agree with you to nominate John Mitchell as the best coach in the country. He should coach the Boks, but please don't leave the Lions! You may follow in the footsteps of Kitch Kristie.

  • saburger - 2011-08-28 13:34

    Well done Lions! Elton, you were brilliant!! Your improvement from the start of the season must be one of the best in the country. Bring the Currie Cup Mitchell!

  • gmain - 2011-08-28 15:59

    sigh. well done to the lions. they were much better than the sharks for the first 50 mins but the sharks showed they better not ralx. the currie cup is far from over. now the sharks pack must just wake up a tad.....

  • chris - 2011-08-29 07:38

    Nou wat nou????? hoekom is daar so baie blou bulltjies wat nou sê dat hulle nie meer rugby kyk nie. Hulle is nou eweskielik te besig of hulle vrouens het nou gesien waar die regte manne is en dit is in die LEEU kamp.En baie dankie dat die blou bulletjies vir Jano Vermaak gevat het dit was die grootste geskenk wat die leeu's gekry het.Jano moet n' spietkop word want hy wil altyd vir iemand wys waar om te parkeer maar niemand verstaan sy hand seine nie.Leeus hou so aan ons is trots op julle

      Leeukop - 2011-08-30 11:31

      Lekker Chris

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