Sharks escape Lions fightback

Neutrals had hoped the addition of Bok stock to the Lions’ ranks would help pull this game deeper into the realm of honest contest.

For the first 55 minutes however the Sharks didn’t look like they were open to manipulation based on the Lions’ teamsheet.

They however lost their way in the second half as the Lions made a stirring comeback but in the end the hosts’ early toil and a late try by the tough as teak Dan du Preez helped vanquished the visitors in this Currie Cup semi-final here on Saturday.

The Sharks marched on to a second consecutive appearance in the Currie Cup final with a performance that underlined their worthiness of a place in the shoot-out.

Whether the performance elevated them into the realm of genuine title contenders is a different matter.

They certainly made life tougher than it ought to have been. Their defence, so resolute in the first half developed gaping holes after the break and the fleet footed Lions, a team driven by attacking ambition, found a way back into a contest that seemed lost at 23-3 after 41 minutes.

The Sharks’ ball control of the ball, also to measured and assured before halftime went absent in the second half.

The Lions, came storming back through some wonderfully constructed tries by Courtnall Skosan and Nic Groom but the final surge was always going to be beyond their reach.

When their coaching staff is offered advice from the press box where Super Rugby coach Swys de Bruin was seated, things are far from ideal.

Even in the build-up it was clear that this was a game in which the Lions’ ability to absorb pressure would determine their destiny.

To compound matters the visitors were forced into a late change after tight head Jacobie Adriaanse was ruled out through injury.

His replacement Chergin Fillies certainly cuts a presence but his speed around the park is glacially slow.

He had a torrid time in the scrums which served as a reminder how quickly the Lions’ fortunes have changed in their prop stock.

Early elementary errors cost the Lions. A midfield turnover resulted in favourable field position for the Sharks who went on to profit from a skew line-out feed.

The visitors also botched the next line-out and going needlessly offside soon after hardly aided their cause.

Given the squeeze applied by the Sharks defence the Lions’ dexterous qualities when in possession deserted them.

Daniel du Preez, Akker van der Merwe, Gideon Koegelenberg bashed away with some reward for the hosts in the first half, while Jean Luc du Preez added to the wrecking balling in the second.

The Sharks’ heavy hitters made the difference and the Lions, as nibble as they are of foot, just couldn’t get out of trouble.

SHARKS (18) 33Tries: S’bu Nkosi (2), Dan du Preez (2). Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Robert du Preez (3)

GOLDEN LIONS (3) 24Tries: Courtnall Skosan (2), Nic Groom. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalty: Jantjies.

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