A South African United Rugby Championship derby between the Lions and the Sharks that was won 47-37 at Ellis Park on Saturday was as unpredictable as the Highveld summer.
11 tries were scored in what was an electrifying game that thankfully lacked the handling errors and lack of cohesion that’s synonymous with matches that take place at this time of the year.
The Sharks showed better tactical bottle in pleasant playing conditions in Doornfontein to clinch a second consecutive URC win.
As it happened | URC - Lions v Sharks
They had deservedly beaten the Bulls at the end of last year, but they were run close by a Lions side that for the most part, saw it’s backs chase shadows against the Sharks’ star-studded backline.
In the end, that proved to be the difference despite the Lions having the better forward pack.
Makazole’s Mapimpi’s class in his hat-trick was a sight to behold and the Lions simply had no response to his magic with ball in hand.
It was a game that had shades of old New Zealand Super Rugby derbies where teams played to their strengths.
With the Sharks having the appreciably lighter, but more mobile pack, theirs was to move the ball wide when the opportunity arose.
That three of their four first-half tries were scored by outside backs was a testament to this, but in Kerron van Vuuren's try, they could also put together a rolling maul when needed.
That said, when the Lions took a 12-3 lead in the 10th-minute after excellent turnover tries by Andre Warner in the eighth minute and Wandisile Simelane 150 seconds later, it seemed like the Lions were going to run roughshod over the visitors.
Boeta Chamberlain’s sixth-minute penalty was a crucial platform the Sharks used to launch themselves into a decisive lead.
A swift backline move saw Aphelele Fassi cross over in the 15th minute to narrow the deficit to two points.
Four minutes later, the Lions ended up chasing their tails when Mapimpi scored the first of his three tries.
The Lions were then unfortunately but correctly denied a try in the 23rd-minute by referee AJ Jacobs when Edwill van der Merwe’s final pass to Francke Horn was deemed to be a forward pass.
The five points missed from that correct call were clawed back through two Fred Zeilinga penalties in the 25th and 28th minutes, but Van Vuuren’s 32nd-minute touchdown from a rolling maul again stretched the game. The lead was made even healthier by Mapimpi’s second try on the stroke of half-time.
The Lions were not deflated though and while they responded to Chamberlain’s 43rd-minute penalty with a 51st-minute push-over try from Ruben Schoeman, Mapimpi sealed his hat-trick three minutes later.
Joaquin Diaz Bonilla added a penalty to stretch the lead to 40-25, but the hosts responded with a Van der Merwe try on the hour mark to narrow the deficit to 10 points.
After dominating territory and possession, the Lions were rewarded with a Morne van den Berg try in the 69th-minute.
However, a late Lukhanyo Am try ensured the Sharks took all the spoils and deservedly so.
Lions (18) 37
Tries: Andre Warner, Wandisile Simelane, Ruben Schoeman, Edwill van der Merwe, Morne van den Berg
Conversions: Fred Zeilinga (2), Tiaan Swanepoel
Penalties: Zeilinga (2)
Sharks (27) 47
Tries: Aphelele Fassi, Makazole Mapimpi (3), Kerron van Vuuren, Lukhanyo Am
Conversions: Boeta Chamberlain (3), Joaquin Diaz Bonilla
Penalties: Chamberlain (2), Diaz Bonilla