Lions recover to beat Cheetahs

A try by Emerging Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak (pictured)  in the 80th minute saw the Lions turn around a 19-0 deficit to beat the Free State Cheetahs 31-22 in a Currie Cup match at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday afternoon.

The seven-pointer clinched it for the home side after they had struggled to overtake Free State until the 77th minute, when a well-constructed try by Johan Jackson in the corner saw them take the lead for the first time in the match.

Vermaak’s try came after a loose ball in midfield by the Free State which Man of the Match Walter Venter kicked forward for Vermaak to chase 40 metres for the final nail in the Cheetahs’ coffin.

The Lions fought back from a 19-0 deficit to take the score to 19-13 at the break and came within three points of the Free State just after halftime.


Only two tries, one by each side, were scored in the first half of a match that saw plenty of movement but many mistakes from both sides.

Poor judgement and some strange decisions from referee Stuart Berry, on debut in the Currie Cup Premier Division, took the shine off what first promised to be a good match.

The Lions started off well and should have made better use of their initial domination, but somehow poor discipline and the referee’s judgement saw them pulled back in a first 15 minutes when they were on top.

The first real Cheetahs breakaway saw the visitors take the lead through a try by prop Wian du Preez. With it they took control, which they maintained until a few minutes before halftime.

The Lions then seemed to regain their earlier dominance and fought back to 19-13 — and full credit to them for scoring three points to none in the absence of Willem Alberts who was yellow-carded for an armless tackle.

The Free State stretched it back to 19-16 shortly after the Lions had crept closer shortly after the break, with the Lions making it 22 -16.

This remained the score for 17 minutes before Lions flyhalf Herkie Kruger pulled it back to 22-19 — and so it remained until the very good try by Jackson, set up by a Lions sortie and some good rucks and excellent control in the Free State 22.

Jacques-Louis Potgieter’s judicious kicking and his 17 points from a drop goal, four penalties and a conversion, kept the Free State in control for a large portion of the match.

They scrummed well, and often looked dangerous on attack.

And, as has become custom for the Free State and Cheetahs, they have unearthed another gem in No 6 flanker Johan Wessels, who is destined to go far in South African rugby.

For the Lions Cobus Grobbelaar was again in the thick of things while Jano Vermaak remains a class act.

Lions 31-22 Free State Cheetahs


Tries: Walter Venter, Johan Jackson, Jano Vermaak.
Conversions: Herkie Kruger (2).
Penalies: Kruger (4).

Free State Cheetahs:
Try: Wian du Preez.
Conversion: Jacques-Louis Potgieter.
Penalties: Potgieter (4).
Drop goal: Potgieter.

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