Lions muscle past Pumas at Ellis Park as SA rugby makes low-key return

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Devon Williams of the Pumas and Prince Nkabinde of the Lions (Gallo)
Devon Williams of the Pumas and Prince Nkabinde of the Lions (Gallo)

South African rugby's preparation series got underway on Friday night at Ellis Park with the Lions beating the Pumas 32-28 in Johannesburg. 

In what was originally dubbed as being a 'Franchise Cup', in the absence of any other recognised tournament banner, eight South African sides will do battle over the next four weeks, playing four matches each.  

These matches are effectively an opportunity for the Sharks, Lions, Stormers and Bulls to build some momentum before the start of the Rainbow Cup in April.

That competition will see South Africa's four premier franchises join the existing European sides playing in the PRO14, and it will be the main event of the 2021 domestic calendar. 

While both the Pumas and the Lions played in Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup in 2020/21, this fixture did have a 'friendly' and experimental feel to it. 

One of the major stories ahead of kickoff was the return of Pumas flyhalf Eddie Fouche to competitive rugby. 

The 23-year-old had been one of the surprise packages and form players in the Unlocked competition before a horror injury back in October cut his season short. 

He didn't have the best day off the kicking tee, but it was the Pumas who struck first on the scoreboard with a try from hooker Simon Westraadt.

Fouche added the extras and it was the visitors who had a 7-0 lead after 10 minutes. 

Lions flyhalf Tiaan Swanepoel narrowed the score to 7-6 with two penalties, but two from Fouche then made it 13-6 to the underdogs. 

A Lions try from scrumhalf Morne van den Burgh just before half-time, however, meant that the sides went into the break locked at 13-13.

As the match progressed in the second half, how close it remained provided a dose of intrigue even if this was a 'friendly'.

Swanepoel and Fouche exchanged penalties to make it 16-16 before two more from Swanepoel opened up a 22-16 lead for the hosts.

The Pumas, though, hit back with a try from replacement hooker AJ le Roux that was not converted, but when replacement back Ali Mgijima went over, the Pumas had a 28-22 lead after Gunter Smuts converted having taken over the kicking duties from a struggling Fouche. 

The Lions, though, kept pressing as the intensity of the match picked up and it was MJ Pelser off the bench who went over to wrestle the lead back with Swanepoel landing the extras. 

Smuts then missed a penalty that would have given his side the lead back on 72 minutes, and when Swanepoel added his sixth penalty of the night for the Lions in the 79th minute, they had some breathing room. 


Lions 32 (13)

Tries: Morne van den Burgh, MJ Pelser

Conversions: Tiaan Swanepoel (2)

Penalties: Swanepoel (6)

Pumas 28 (13)

Tries: Simon Westraadt, AJ le Roux, Ali Mgijima

Conversions: Eddie Fouche, Gunter Smuts

Penalties: Fouche (3)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
41% - 13365 votes
12% - 4070 votes
19% - 6150 votes
3% - 847 votes
1% - 325 votes
2% - 774 votes
5% - 1667 votes
8% - 2789 votes
4% - 1159 votes
Water sports
1% - 302 votes
American sports
1% - 409 votes
3% - 1108 votes