AUCKLAND, NZ: The first look at what the 2014 edition of Super Rugby had in store happened over the weekend in South Africa. What we got were two different, exciting games and a knock to my ability to pick results.
Yes, I gave the Lions no hope in Bloemfontein where they met the Cheetahs. But I hadn’t counted on the boot of Marnitz Boshoff. Last year’s road warriors would’ve fancied themselves heavily against the comeback kids from Johannesburg, but a couple of early Johan Goosen penalty attempts were fluffed and gave the Lions the first points on the board. Boshoff made sure their points tally kept steadily increasing by three at a time while Raymond Rhule of the home side scored the first try of the 2014 season, capitalizing on a break by fullback Willie le Roux.
A 10-9 lead became 17-9 10 minutes into the second half when wing Cornal Hendricks crossed the stripe. However, that’s where the try-scoring action finished as the Cheetahs added another penalty and Boshoff got to work clawing back the deficit with shots at goal of his own. A strong forward effort gave him the platform to slam home a drop goal from 35 metres out which put the Lions in front and gave them an unlikely victory. The Lions will be hoping this gutsy effort will land them a jersey sponsor, so if there are any companies who use red and white in your logo out there, give them a call.
Lions 21 (Marnitz Boshoff 6 pens, dg) Cheetahs 20 (Cornal Hendricks, Raymond Rhule tries; Johan Goosen pen, 2 con; Elgar Watts pen)
The next match in the South African double-header was a clash of the Bulls and Sharks in Durban, New coach Jake White had 14 Springboks to put in his team, he went with 11 to start and three on the bench. Up against these odds the a young and inexperienced Bulls outfit were always going to struggle.
It only took 10 minutes for Lwazi Mvovo to set up centre Paul Jordaan for the first try, but the hosts benefitted from a very dodgy TMO decision to gift halfback Cobus Reinach a try off a messy line out. The Bulls fought hard for a halftime deficit of 16-9 and brought on the old warhorse Victor Matfield onto the park, fresh off an unintentionally hilarious stint as a commentator. However that couldn’t stop Sharks second-five Frans Steyn pulling out the old kick-pass trick to Odwa Ndungane, who must have enjoyed scoring against his twin brother Akona’s team.
The Bulls got a consolation try from a line out drive after Pat Lambie had stretched the gap out to over 20 points. So a solid bonus-point start for the hyped ‘Great White Sharks’, a win they’ll value over their traditional powerhouse rival.
Sharks 31 (Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane, Pat Lambie tries; Lambie 3 pen, con) Bulls 16 (Jonathan Ross try; Louis Fouche 2 pen, dg; Handre Pollard con)
Next weekend is when the action will really heat up, all three conferences do battle in what shapes to be a huge few days of footy. Watch out for regular Super Rugby previews and reviews right here from the Shaky Isles.
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