Lions edge Cheetahs in Bloem
REPORT: The Lions started their 2017 Super Rugby campaign with a narrow 28-25 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored two tries for the visitors, while another score came via a penalty try. The Cheetahs only managed one try with Raymond Rhule crossing the whitewash.
At half-time, the scores were level at 6-6 after an error-ridden display by both teams.
The home side made a blistering start from the opening kick-off and they looked like they were on their way to scoring before a handling error in the Lions' 22.
Both teams seemed intent on spreading the ball wide, but it was the Cheetahs who looked the more dangerous with their swift passing and offloading.
However, it was the Lions who scored the first points after taking advantage of some Cheetahs' ill-discipline. Elton Jantjies converted an easy penalty in the 14th minute for a 3-0 lead.
The Cheetahs got a kickable penalty of their own in the 18th minute after a scrum indiscretion by the Lions and Fred Zeilinga leveled the scores.
The home side then had an opportunity to go in front a few minutes later, but this time Zeilinga could not find the direction from a fair way out.
Instead, it was the Lions who took the lead again in the 24th minute with another Jantjies penalty before Zeilinga missed another penalty from a difficult angle.
With four minutes remaining in the first half, the Cheetahs were given a major boost when Lions scrumhalf Francois De Klerk was given a yellow card for going off his feet at a ruck and preventing the Cheetahs from recycling the ball during a promising attack in the visitors' 22.
Zeilinga eventually converted the penalty after that indiscretion and at half-time it was all level.
After a try-scoring drought in the first half, the Cheetahs scored the first try of the game in the opening minute of the second half when wing Raymond Rhule collected a loose Lions' pass to race away for the score. Zeilinga converted and the Cheetahs led 13-6.
The Cheetahs then extended their lead to 10 points in the 46th minute when Zeilinga converted another penalty.
With about 27 minutes left in the match, the Lions hit back with a try of their own after Andries Coetzee collected a grubber by Lionel Mapoe before passing to Janse van Rensburg who crossed the whitewash. Jantjies converted the try from a tight angle to reduce the deficit to three points.
The home side were the next to score again after a Zeilinga penalty before the Lions hit back once again via Jantjies.
However, the Cheetahs six-point lead was restored again at the 65th minute mark when Zeilinga knocked over his fifth of the game.
With the clock winding down, the Lions then made a big decision by going for a line-out in the Cheetahs' 22 after they were awarded a kickable penalty.
However, Warren Whiteley's side were rewarded when they awarded a penalty try after the Cheetahs collapsed a maul close to their own tryline. As with the new rules, no conversion was needed.
Cheetahs replacement Francois Uys was also yellow carded in his role in the maul collapse.
With just over five minutes left, the Cheetahs regained the lead with another Zeilinga penalty before Janse van Rensburg scored his second try of the game when he dived over in the corner after some great backline play by his teammates.
That was the final bit of scoring in the game with the Lions hanging on for the win.
Man of the match: Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored two tries for the Lions and some good runs in the midfield. However, the award goes to Cheetahs flyhalf Fred Zeilinga who kept his team in front for most of the game with the boot. He also made some good decisions out wide.
Pens: Zelinga 6
Tries: Janse van Rensburg 2, Penalty Try
Pens: Jantjies 3
Yellow cards: Francois de Klerk (Lions, 36 - cynical play, playing the ball on the ground). Francois Uys (Cheetahs, 68 - cynical play, collapsing the maul)
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ryno Benjamin.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Jaco van der Walt.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)