Sharks rout Lions in dramatic comeback
Daniel Gallan
August 12, 2017

The Cell C Sharks stormed back against the 14 men of the Xerox Golden Lions to secure a dramatic 47-31 Currie Cup victory at the Emirates Airline Park in a chilly Johannesburg on Saturday night.

The Lions completely dominated the opening stanza and deserved their 24-5 lead heading into the break, but a moment of petulance from hooker Robbie Coetzee left his side with the unenviable task of defending their lines with a man down.

When Jacques Vermeulen crossed over for his first of the night in the 51st minute, the Lions were still well in command at 31-12, but Coetzee kicked out a foot which found Vermeulen’s head and referee Rasta Rasivhenge had little choice but to send the hooker for an early shower.

With the man advantage, the Sharks bossed the game and ran in six unanswered second-half tries to complete a remarkable turnaround that sees them climb to the top of the table with an emphatic bonus-point win.

It could have been so different for the Lions, who were fluid in attack and resolute in defence in the opening stages of this encounter. Once the bite of the Highveld air had worn off, the home side flexed their muscles and blitzed their guests with a trio of tries in seven minutes, the pick of the bunch coming from winger Anthony Volmink who crossed over for an easy finish after he was put into space on the back of a mesmerising run from fullback Sylvian Mahuza.

Another score from replacement scrumhalf Janse van Vuuren seemed to put the game to bed early with Tera Mtembu’s try looking little more than a consolation for the Sharks as they went into the shed 24-5 in arrears.

Both sides traded tries after the restart. First Lions flanker Fabian Booysen completed a well worked move off the back of yet another stolen ball before Jacques Vermeulen did well to score from a Sharks line-out.

Then Coetzee saw red and the Lions folded as wave after wave of Shark attacks left them scrambling in defence and without a clue of how to stop them.

The Sharks big men took full advantage of their numerical supremacy and secured a deserved penalty try for repeated scrum infringements on the line before Louis Schreuder cut inside from midfield after receiving a flat pass from the base of a solid platform. With just over a quarter of an hour to go, the score read 31-26 but momentum was well and truly with the men in black.

As the home crowd watched on in disbelief, scoreboard parity was restored when the burly John-Hubert Meyer crashed over after more forward dominance. When Garth April nudged his side into the lead for the first time in the match, glum faces began to ripple throughout the ground.

Galvanised by the severity of their situation, the Lions rallied and once again threatened on attack with some barnstorming runs from Janse van Rensburg and Bobby de Wee. However, the Sharks would put the game to bed when Vermeulen added his second against the run of play with only five minutes to go. Keegan Daniel completed the rout with his side’s seventh of the game with only a few minutes left to play.

The new Lions coaching team will be licking their wounds this week and will surely be giving some stern words to their hooker who cost them dearly tonight.

They find themselves in sixth position on the log with just one win in four matches and will need to find their groove before heading to Cape Town next week.

The Sharks sit pretty at the top and will enjoy a break next weekend.


Xerox Golden Lions: 31 (24) - Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg (11”); Jacques Nel (13”); Anthony Volmink (18”); Marco Janse van Rensburg (30”); Fabian Booysens (46”). Conversions: Jaco van der Valt (3)

Red Card: Robbie Coetzee (52”)

Cell C Sharks: 47 (5) - Tries: Tera Mtembu (40”); Jacques Vermeulen (51”, 74”); Penalty Try (55”); Louis Schreuder (59”); John-Hubert Meyer (67”); Keegan Daniel (78”). Conversions: Garth April (6)

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