Mon, Mar 14, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Lions beat Cheetahs to end 23-month losing run

AFP, BLOEMFONTEIN

Golden Lions ended a 23-month winless run when they edged fellow South Africans the Central Cheetahs 25-20 in a Super 15 thriller at Vodacom Park on Saturday.

The Johannesburg-based franchise last celebrated a victory in the southern hemisphere championship by defeating New Zealand visitors Wellington Hurricanes in May 2009 at Ellis Park.

Last season, the Lions suffered the humiliation of losing all 13 matches, some by wide margins, and captain Franco van der Merwe appeared stunned that the losing run was finally over.

“I have forgotten what it feels like to win a Super rugby match and let us hope this is the first of many victories. We came so close to winning so often and nearly threw this one away a couple of times,” he said.

“We give our supporters palpitations sometimes when we run the ball from inside our 22, but we have a game plan and must stick to it,” the lock said without betraying any emotion.

Lions did well not to concede any points, while New Zealand-born fullback James Kamana, starting a match for the first time, was in the “sin bin” for a dangerous tackle midway through the second half.

Cheetahs center Andries Strauss — the latest captain of the Bloemfontein outfit after injuries have sidelined flanker Juan Smith and hooker Adriaan Strauss — cut a dejected figure after a fourth consecutive loss this season.

“It is so frustrating and disappointing. We could have won today but were not clinical enough. There were too many handling errors and this meant having to make more tackles. Our discipline left much to be desired,” Strauss said.

Lions climbed four places from second last thanks to the win, while Cheetahs remain rooted to the bottom with only three bonus points and next weekend they begin a four-match tour of Australasia, where they have never won.

A consolation for the losers was the successful return of Springbok flank Heinrich Brussow, who underwent two operations after injuring his left knee against the Hurricanes last March.

“Scavenger” Brussow was his usual busy self in the loose and played a role in several turnovers before coming off eight minutes into the second half as a precaution because he lacks match fitness.

Fly-halves Sias Ebersohn of Cheetahs and Elton Jantjies of Lions kicked five penalties each and the difference was the visitors scored two tries, while the home team crossed the line only once.

Former Cheetahs wing Lionel Mapoe and flank Derick Minnie dotted down for the Lions, who led 16-14 at halftime in a match where the lead changed five times, while Strauss was the lone try scorer for the home side.

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