Brave Lions stun Highlanders

2011-05-28 11:25

Dunedin - Wikus van Heerden scored a try a minute from fulltime to give South Africa's Lions a 26-22 win over the Highlanders in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday.

Former Springbok flank van Heerden, swathed in bandages and streaming blood from a head wound, drove through the Highlanders' defence in the 79th minute to give the Johannesburg-based Lions their third win of the season and severely damage the Highlanders' playoff hopes.

Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga had kicked his team to the brink of victory, landing a conversion and five penalties for 17 points, but he missed touch from a late penalty, allowing the Lions to mount the raid from which the winning try was scored.

Sopoaga had fought a kicking duel with his young flyhalf rival Elton Jantjies throughout the match and seemed to have gained the upper hand when his fifth penalty in the 67th minute gave the Highlanders a 22-19 lead.

Jantjies kept a spotless record, kicking two conversions and four penalties for 16 points.

The Highlanders started the match in sixth place on the championship table, looking for their ninth win from 13 games which would've cement their place among the top-six teams which will contest the playoffs in four weeks.

Instead, they fell to a fifth defeat which may result in them tumbling out of the top six and could harm their playoff chances. The Highlanders have matches remaining against the Western Force, Waratahs and Blues.

The Lions played with enormous spirit to post the second win of their four-match tour of Australia and New Zealand, which concludes when they play the Hurricanes next weekend. They trailed for large parts of the game, were behind 16-9 at half-time and by three points with a minute remaining but they showed patience and resilience to claim a last-gasp win.

"I've played for the Lions for a long time and I can't remember us winning in New Zealand ever so it's a big occasion for us," Lions captain Doppies La Grange said.

"Some hard work has paid off. The guys showed a lot of attitude and played with heart. It's an awesome feeling. We gave away some silly penalties but against the Highlanders it's always a physical battle and you have to work hard to come out with a win."

La Grange said the hard-working van Heerden and the composed, young Jantjies had been inspirational figures.

"Wikus is always a stalwart, he always plays with heart and again Elton Jantjies what an exciting youngster. He's a name to watch. Winning here means a lot but obviously we have to be consistent and we have to work hard on our consistency to build on this win."

The Highlanders should have clinched the match well before the final minute when Van Heerden's try became decisive. They had many opportunities but their play lost some of its usual coordination and authority.

New Zealand referee Jonathan White fired penalties randomly at breakdowns, mostly against the Lions, and his rulings led to frustration and occasional flare-ups between the forward packs.

The Highlanders had worked hard, without absolute control, to carve out a 16-9 lead by half-time with a crucial try to centre Shaun Treeby. The Lions hit back with a second half try to backrower Joshua Strauss, leaving it level at 16-16 after 49 minutes.

Jantjies and Sopoaga exchanged penalties until the 79th minute when Sopoaga's missed touch gave the Lions the chance to rally and build toward the winning try.

"That's rugby, mate. You've got to find touch, you've got to hold onto the ball and we didn't do any of that tonight," Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh said.

"We were in a great position to make a run through (to the playoffs) but we've hit a banana skin and it's really disappointing."

In next weekend's Round 16 action, the Highlanders host the Western Force in Dunedin, while the Lions travel to Wellington to face the Hurricanes.



15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Mo Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (captain).

Substitutes: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 Robbie Robinson.

15. Jaco Taute, 14. Dylan des Fountain, 13. Doppies la Grange (captain), 12. Butch James, 11. Deon van Rensburg, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Josh Strauss, 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Derick Minnie, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Wikus van Heerden, 3. Patric Cilliers, 2. Bandise Maku, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg

Substitutes: 16. Edgar Marutlulle, 17. Jacobie Adriaanse, 18. Warren Whiteley, 19. Cobus Grobbelaar, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Alwyn Hollenbach, 22. Michael Killian


  • ikilladabull - 2011-05-28 11:30

    Well played Lions. Seems like Elton is finally finding his feet in Super Rugby. Wow but Jimmy Cowan is a d00s!!!

      Wooly Bugger - 2011-05-28 12:51

      His alias is WPBEFONK

  • Boerseun - 2011-05-28 11:32

    Dis die beste nuus tot dusver vandag....nou moet die Cheetas nog net wen...

      trublu - 2011-05-28 11:37

      HOU maar aan droom boerseun....cheetahs kry op hulle mur vandag.

  • Jozua - 2011-05-28 11:34

    hard match,especially playing against the ref and blind linesmans as well

      Julius Dilem - 2011-05-30 07:09

      Linesmen is the word you are looking for... but then you cant even spell Joshua correctly... Mnr van Wyk is a bietjie dom...

  • Grunk - 2011-05-28 11:34

    Very well played Lions, and sorry Butch. You definitely have brought some maturity and calmness to the backline and as much as I moaned about your tackle last week, the one that almost decapitated Jantjies was suffient imo to warrant a citing (oour one in the ruck on our line wasn't too clever either). Anyhow you never said die and it paid dividends.

  • Eric West - 2011-05-28 11:36


  • annarie.vanderschyff - 2011-05-28 11:36


  • Patrick - 2011-05-28 11:38

    once a Loin always a Lion

  • Lennox - 2011-05-28 11:43

    Eish, what a costly mistake by the Highlanders not to find touch with that last penalty, cost them the game and probably a chance in the playoffs as well. Lions played well, Jantjies had a good game with Butch next to him, breakdowns were bloody(pun intended) ferocious. A few citings for sure.

      Kaapie - 2011-05-28 14:28

      Butch played @ 13..

  • Mojojo - 2011-05-28 11:47

    Well done Lions. It is goog to see you on the up and up and winning again. What a good start to the Weekend for the SA sides. Stormers up next. Lets go boys...

  • PMG - 2011-05-28 11:52

    A fantastic victory,havent seen that kind of commitment and determination in a very long time.Congrats - well done boys.Now for the cheetahs to teach those vuilgat blue lambs a rugger lesson.

      Damian@bulls - 2011-05-28 12:04

      Pmg het jy dieselfde super 15 as ek gekyk sover?? as jy het sal jy moet erken ons is nie die vuilgatte nie perd. los ander mense persoonlik uit , sies man word groot!

      VivazDJ - 2011-05-28 13:05

      PMG - If you able to do the maths navigate to and work out for yourself who the real vuil gatte is in the SA conference.

  • crocowild - 2011-05-28 12:22

    Good game by the Lions.Still to many handling errors,but the fighting spirit is back.Bulls and Sharks should thank you for this gift.The frontrow that wins the battle at Loftus this afternoon will probably go to Nieu Zealand.Coenie ,Adriaan and WP,GO FOR IT. Lets test the Bulls.Are they really,really back.Remember , the Sharks was still shellshocked after their game against the Stormers.They will need some time to get their confidence back.

  • Crusader Man - 2011-05-28 12:41

    well played Lions.. Gutsy win.. Good to see the last try was actually scored.. not like last week where u couldn't tell whether tries had been scored by stormers,, well done u deserved your first win on NZ soil....

      ikilladabull - 2011-05-28 15:23

      Crusaderman if you couldnt see the Stormers tries they scored last week then your TV must be broken.

  • Dan - 2011-05-28 13:08

    Well done. If the Super 15 system was fair to all 3 countries, I personally think SA teams and maybe 1 or 2 NZ teams would domintate the competition every year. The system is so in favour of the NZ/AUS teams, it is almost criminal.

  • Ockie - 2011-05-28 13:42

    Well done Lions. The 10, 12 and 13 combination really paid off well. The team also seem to be maturing. Earlier this year, they lost the close encounters and this time they turn the tables around. Keep it up.

  • Roman Candle - 2011-05-28 14:09

    @WPBEFONK. Well done Sire. Just remember that even a broken watch is right at least twice in a day..... Sharks maybe, but the Cheetas call imethinks is your heart talking. All the best!

  • milswanka - 2011-05-28 14:20

    Well well well, I am damn proud to be a Lions supporter!!! I am out of my skin. This may only be positive for the Lions in the future, really hope so. Good luck on the rest of the tour boys, really really happy at the moment.

  • RuckingFun - 2011-05-28 14:41

    firstly- congrats on a win in nz to go with that one in aus secondly - thanx from the stormers, sharks and bulls for making our lives a bit easier

  • capeflats - 2011-05-28 15:14

    Just need to lions to get some consecutive wins, it is good for SA Rugby

      ikilladabull - 2011-05-28 15:28

      They could have had 3 consecutive wins if their plonker coach hadnt messed with a winning combination. Elton needs gametime. Hope he has learned his lesson well.

      capeflats - 2011-05-28 15:56

      Yeah he needs gametime, hopefully he comes of age soon. There are moments where he is brilliant, and then moments that are rotten. He just needs to figure his game out, he definitely has plenty of potential, good hands. And nothing better than a running flyhalf, thank heavens for King Carlos mentoring him.

  • GraemeBB - 2011-05-28 17:13

    Huge win for the Lions. WELL DONE!! You guys have single handedly sunk my Superbru aspirations this year. Bloody hell!!

  • Carl Muller - 2011-05-28 21:13

    Fantastic Lions.... Congratulations ........... Bulls forever...

  • kurtvs - 2011-05-28 22:22

    Jantjies two starts on tour two wins and two man of the match performances!!!!! Now the lions supporters will know what their coach meant or implied when he said that Jantjies will deliver as he has talent in abundance.

  • molefeP - 2011-05-28 22:53

    Play Butch James, they loose. Put back Jantjies, back to winning form! Absolutely brilliant Lions!

  • Plesierspier - 2011-05-29 02:19

    BAIE BAIE DANKIE!! Groete Die Blou Bulle

  • Mikus - 2011-05-29 12:17

    Awesome - absoutely bloody awesome, I will always be a WP supporter but the spirit and determination shown by this group of LIONS makes me proud to be South African! Wickus, jy bly 'n yster my maat!!! Oh - and watching that little Cowqn twat whining behind the tryline made the victory so very, very sweet - dankie manne.

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