Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - It
may now require a disastrous Australasian tour by the Lions for any other team
in the South African conference to haul them in for best possible knockout
seeding domestically in Super Rugby 2018.
Bruin’s charges have reached the halfway mark of their 16-game ordinary-season
programme … and celebrated with a thumping 52-31 triumph over the fast-fading
Stormers at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
seemed to underline in a bright, felt pen that the Lions - significantly
resurgent after a ropey few weeks - remain the front-line South African hope
for the overall title, only echoing what happened in 2016 and 2017 when they
were tournament runners-up each time.
this full-house victory over their southern rivals, the Johannesburg outfit,
with 25 log points, also romped to particularly clear-cut supremacy in the
conference, now 11 points clear of the second-placed Sharks (although the
homeward-bound side from Durban have a game in hand).
Stormers, meanwhile, stay marooned on 13 points, failing for a second week in
succession to bag anything at all from a derby - they had also been beaten
33-23 by the Bulls last time out.
wins from eight matches, they have it all to do just to make sure they qualify
for the knockout phase, and much introspection required during their merciful,
have also recaptured top spot competition-wide, but it is a deceptive status
because a handful of teams, breathing right down their necks, boast games in
should enjoy their own bye weekend more than the Stormers, given that it
prepares them both mentally and physically for the demands of a four-match
sequence across the Indian Ocean: Waratahs, Reds, Hurricanes and Highlanders.
It was a
thoroughly revitalising win, secured by eight tries to four and with a
multi-layered, skill-laden strategic approach that rather showed up their
too-predictable-by-half Cape visitors.
SuperSport pundit and former Springbok coach Nick Mallett so rightly observed
afterwards, the Stormers badly overdid the policy of “playing off No 9 to a
forward” and the Lions cashed in ruthlessly on turnovers - which came all too
easily from the dominant likes of Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith on the deck.
scrum, left wing Madosh Tambwe had a dream match for visits to the tryline -
even if the bounce was often splendidly in his favour - registering four all of
his own, including the hat-trick being bagged as swiftly as the 17th
That is the
stuff of sporting comic heroes, isn’t it?
Just as influential
in the Lions backline were flyhalf Elton Jantjies and fullback Andries Coetzee,
especially for their kick-related decision-making, whilst Springbok right wing
Ruan Combrinck, back after a lengthy absence through injury, had some extremely
satisfying moments as he felt his way back into the first-class fray.
A battery of
Bok-capped Stormers players left the park with tails firmly between their legs,
although exceptions included the immense Pieter-Steph du Toit - he carried the
ball like a man possessed at blindside flank - and tighthead prop Wilco Louw,
who sometimes covered the park more like an athletic loose forward, despite his
130kg, to aid the (often dreadfully shaky) defensive cause.
they have two weeks to lick their wounds, the Capetonians can’t yet claim that
the recent “derby curse” is behind them - their next outing is against the
Sharks at Kings Park.
Robert du Preez’s side look a better SA bet to keep at least some heat on the
Lions, given that their two-match New Zealand leg went immeasurably better than
the pair of earlier fixtures in Australia.
the Blues, and many rugby fans universally who saw their latest game against
the Hurricanes will still be scratching their heads as to how they were pipped
at the post (38-37) in the tour closer after the most gallant of shifts … or shall
we say for 82 of the fateful 83 or so minutes?
Sharks reproduce their physical, high-tempo NZ form frequently enough back home - they now look forward to eight of nine remaining matches being on South
African soil - there could still be a sting to the tail in the local
Next weekend’s fixtures (home teams
first, all kick-offs SA time):
Friday, April 13
Hurricanes v Chiefs, - 09:35
Saturday, April 14
Sunwolves v Blues - 05:05
Rebels v Jaguares -
Highlanders v Brumbies - 09:35
Waratahs v Reds - 11:45
Sharks v Bulls -
Byes: Lions, Stormers, Crusaders*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing