Lions knock Cheetahs out
CURRIE CUP MATCH REPORT: The Golden Lions knocked out the defending champion Free State Cheetahs in an exciting conclusion to the league stages of the competitions.
The Lions, who welcomed back a handful of their Springboks, eased to a 44-17 win over the Pro14 version of the Cheetahs at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The result means the Lions move up to third place on the standings and will travel to Cape Town - where they will meet Western Province in one of the semifinals.
The other semifinal will be between the table-topping Sharks and the fourth-placed Blue Bulls in Durban.
The Cheetahs, who finished fifth, will have a bye next week - before return to the Pro14 in a fortnight.
* For the semifinals and kick-off times. CLICK HERE!
With only one spot in the semifinals up for grabs and possibly another by permutation, both teams were desperate for the win in what was essentially a 'quarterfinal'.
The Cheetahs started the game with their Pro14 line-up, which is on a two-week break from the Northern Hemisphere competition.
Only Sergeal Petersen and Francois Venter were not considered due to injuries.
The Lions strengthened their squad with Springboks Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje in the starting line-up with national team hooker Malcolm Marx on the bench.
The Lions turned down an early attempt at poles opting for a line-out and the decision was a good one as the Lions spread it wide for left wing Skosan to score the easiest of tries in the fourth minute. Flyhalf Jaco van der Walt added the extra two points.
Cheetahs flyhalf Ernst Stapelberg and Van der Walt exchanged penalties for the Lions to lead 10-3 after 18 minutes.
Van der Walt added another three almost on the half-hour, but the Cheetahs struck back against the run of play on 35 minutes. With the Lions on the attack, Cheetahs left wing Makazole Mapimpi intercepted the ball to speedily cover all of 70 metres to score under the posts at the other end. Stapelberg added the extras from the tee and it was 13-10 to the Lions at half-time.
Soon the restart, the Lions got their second try of the game when strongly-built flank Cyle Brink powered his way up the left flank to score in the corner. Van der Walt kicked the difficult conversion and then added another penalty and the Lions led 23-10 through 50 minutes.
The Cheetahs launched a number of attacks, but numerous handling errors at crucial moments cost them dearly.
Skosan put the result beyond doubt for the home side with 10 minutes remaining as replacement Marx off-loaded for the flyer to ease his way over the tryline for his second try of the game. Van der Walt kept his 100 percent record from the kicking tee in the match by slotting the conversion.
Flank Kwagga Smith secured the bonus-point try following good supportive play and Van der Walt landed the extra two points to finish with a personal tally of 17.
Cheetahs flank Paul Schoeman did manage a consolation score for Stapelberg to convert just before the hooter.
But the Lions had the last laugh as replacement Robert Kruger intercepted to score his team's fifth try with time already up on the stadium clock.
Man of the match: Rosko Specman, Ernst Stapelberg, Teboho Mohoje and Retshegofaditswe Nche put in admirable performances for the Cheetahs. However, the Lions' Springboks were at the forefront of the home team's dominant display - Andries Coetzee, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster (a non-Springbok), Courtnall Skosan, Ross Cronje, Albertus Smith (Sevens international), along with other non-Boks like Cyle Brink and Len Massyn all outstanding. However, our award goes to the Lions' Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx - who put in another monstrous performance when he came on early in the second half.
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Skosan 2, Brink, Smith, Kruger
Cons: Van der Walt 5
Pens: Van der Walt 3
For the Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Mapimpi, Schoeman
Cons: Stapelberg 2
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Albertus Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Len Massyn, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Rhyno Herbst, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Hacjivah Dayimani.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Raymond Rhule, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Teboho Mohoje, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 17 Jacques du Toit, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Junior Pokomela, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Ali Mgijima, 22 Luther Obi.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Johan Greeff