Lions simply outclassed defending champs Sharks

2014-10-20 00:00

A PROMISING five-match unbeaten streak and Currie Cup title hopes were ended on Saturday afternoon after the Lions smashed the Sharks 50-20 in their semi-final clash in Johannesburg.

It seemed a step too far for the defending champions Sharks, who had to give up their trophy until next year’s competition.

Although a couple of late tries made the score line look worse than it was, the Lions deserved to have so many points on the board with such a powerful display. The Sharks were simply outclassed in most aspects of the game and the Lions forge on ahead to next week’s final against Western Province.

Perhaps there was a sense of impending doom when Springbok scrumhalf Cobus Reinach was ruled out for the Sharks before the match. Although his replacement Conrad Hoffman stepped up to the plate, the Lions’ dominance made life difficult for him.

In what had become a trend this season, the Sharks had a poor first half, which allowed the Lions to quickly gain a head of steam that made them difficult to stop. The loss of flank Etienne Oosthuizen (yellow card) compounded the Sharks’ worries and they were down 17 points at half-time.

The Sharks’ demise can be put down to their poor showing in the set piece. Both their lineout, which was a strong facet of their game all season, and their scrums were taken to pieces by a clinical and fired-up Lions outfit.

The scrums were particularly bad in the first half and Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson changed his props at the stroke of half-time in the hopes of turning the tide. The scrums did settle somewhat, but the Lions already had the ascendency.

Although the Sharks made a good comeback in the second half with three tries of their own, their defence was poor and they leaked tries due to poor tackling and their inability to scramble on defence.

Sharks flyhalf Lionel Cronje had a fantastic season, but was reduced to his raw form under such pressure. Without good go-forward, Cronje was unable to test the Lions defence or unleash his outside backs.

The Sharks forwards seemed smothered by the abundant energy of the Lions pack and the Lions loose trio of Warren Whiteley, Derick Minnie and especially Jaco Kriel seemed too much for them to handle.

Kriel was all over the park and simply outplayed Jacques Botes and Oosthuizen. The result would have been sombre for Botes, who played his last Currie Cup match before his retirement.

The result was not favourable, but the Sharks will be mindful of their youthful squad which didn’t have as much time to prepare in the build up to the Currie Cup compared with Western Province and the Lions.

Whoever takes over the coaching reins for next year’s Super Rugby competition will have a talented and hungry bunch to work with.

Currie Cup semi-final results: Lions 50-20 Sharks. Western Province 31-23 Bulls

Currie Cup final: Western Province vs Lions - 5pm at Newlands, Saturday 25 October.

Sharks: 20 (3)

Tries: Lwazi Mvovo, Tera Mtembu, SP Marais. Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (1), Penalties: Lionel Cronje (1).

Golden Lions: 50 (23)

Tries: Howard Mnisi, Jaco Kriel, Ross Cronje, Akker van der Merwe, Ruan Combrinck, Warren Whiteley

Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (4), Penalties: Marnitz Boshoff (4).

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