The Golden Lions of Gauteng turned on the power and beat KwaZulu-Natal 17-8 in the main match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on the third day of the 2012 Craven Week.
After their stunning performance of the first day when they thrashed the Free State, one would have backed KwaZulu-Natal for this match but the powerful Golden Lions pack had other ideas. They bulked up their bulky pack and they used every opportunity to bash their bulk into the KwaZulu-Natal side - not that the Natalians stood back but they were rattled into errors.
This was a stern contest between two well-matched sides, the outcome determined probably by error. KwaZulu-Natal lost or threw away eight of their own line-outs and they were penalised four times in the front row of the scrum. The line-outs were especially self-destructive.
The Lions had a recent convert from loose forward to hooking in Malcolm Marx. He had an easier game than his KZN counterpart with that massive pack and is himself a big, strong boy who enjoyed a splendid match from start to finish.
The game started at a great rate with both sides playing with intensity. The Golden Lions had the advantage of the wind and were impressive. Their outside centre, speedy Koch Marx, produced the first promising run of the match.
When KwaZulu-Natal went offside, Jaco van der Walt goaled in the difficult conditions of a swirling wind. 3-0 after minutes. At the kick-off, the Golden Lions obstructed and Robert Anderson made it 3-all. KwaZulu Natal missed three penalty kicks in the match which could have made a big difference. They also kicked a penalty dead and the next one not out. They found the wind difficult.
Huge Stephan Vermeulen, playing eighthman, pounded down the left and Surprise Mayekiso had a 50-metre run in counterattack.
A penalty at a scrum gave the Lions an attacking line-out from which they bashed till Malcolm Marx had a bit of room on the right. He was too strong for three opponents who tried to stop him and scored. Van der Walt converted. 10-3 after 29 minutes.
The Lions race up the left on the attack and big Barend Herbst grubbered towards the KwaZulu-Natal 22, a promising grubber till, under pressure, Jesse Kriel gathered in the ball, burst through two close opponents and then another three till he got into his running stride. He chipped into the Golden Lions' 22 where he and two opponents went for the ball. With one hand Kriel got hold of the ball and as he was being tackled got it down for a brilliant try - the individual try of the 2012 Craven Week up till now. 10-8 after 32 minutes.
It was a moment to savour.
There was just one score in the second half when KwaZulu-Natal had the wind. It came from a line-out.
Well inside their own 22 KZN threw in at the line-out. It was a weird throw and, caught by surprise, Victor Sekekete shot up a hand and knocked it back. Malcolm Marx drove at the line and then burly prop Clinton Theron grabbed the ball, bounced off an opponent and drove through two others for a score under the posts. 18-8 after 52 minutes.
Lindokuhle Mvelase-Julyan had a sharp break, Cameron Wright, on as a substitute, kicked a brilliant box kick which forced a five-metre scrum but KwaZulu-Natal did not look like scoring. In fact the Golden Lions ended the livelier of the two sides.
There is now the expectation that the prestigious final match on Saturday could well be between the Golden Lions and the Blue Bulls.
For Golden Lions:
Tries: M Marx, Theron
Cons: Van der Walt 2
Pen: Van der Walt
KZN: 15 Jesse Kriel (captain), 14 Bruce Arnott, 13 Lindokuhle Mvelase-Julyan, 12 Sandile Kubeka, 20 Mondli Nkosi, 10 Robert Anderson, 22 Mthokozisi Mkhabela, 19 Michael van Aardt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Abraham Swart, 5 Daniel du Preez, 18 Sihle Ngxabi, 3 Mvelo Khumalo, 16 Stephan Hardman, 1 Patrick Sikhosana.
Replacements: 2 Ntando Khathide, 17 Msizi Zondi, 4 Justin Moberly, 8 Joshua Moon, 9 Cameron Wright, 21 Nkululeko Marwana, 11 Corné Vermaak.
Golden Lions: 22 Barend Herbst, 14 Surprise Mayekiso, 13 Koch Marx, 12 Innocent Radebe, 11 Alastair McQuire, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Bradley Janse van Rensburg, 5 Stephan Vermeulen, 7 Christiaan Massyn (captain), 6 Ruan Macdonald, 18 Cyle Brink, 4 Victor Sekekete, 17 Frans van Wyk, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Emmanuel Morowane, 3 Clinton Theron, 8 Rivoningo Mabunda, 19 Thapelo Rapelwana, 20 Eric Botes, 21 Wanele Maholwana, 15 Erwin Harris.
Referee: Rodney Bonaparte