It’s right to question South Africa’s (and Argentina’s) involvement in Super Rugby. But let’s remember: they contribute more than Australia.
Winger Ruan Combrinck slotted a 55-metre winning penalty two minutes from time as the Lions survived a massive scare to defeat the unfancied Sharks 23-21 in a dramatic Super Rugby quarter-final at Ellis Park.
The Lions, who topped the overall Super Rugby log in the regular season, were well short of their best as an error-strewn performance kept the Sharks in the contest right up until the end.
Yet with Lions trailing by a point after an off day with the boot for Elton Jantjies, Combrinck, in his 50th Super Rugby game, landed a decisive penalty from inside his own half which edged over by barely a metre to secure the fortunate victory.
The Lions, who will now host New Zealand’s Hurricanes in their semi-final next weekend, scored tries through lock Franco Mostert, flanker Jaco Kriel and centre Lionel Mapoe.
The Sharks, who were brave in defence and capitalised on the home side’s errors, responded with tries from wing Kobus van Wyk and loose forward Dan du Preez.
The Lions should have won more comfortably but five-eighth Jantjies had an inexplicably poor day from the tee as his side missed out on 13 points from mostly simple kicks.
After he had missed the first of those from right in front of the posts, the Sharks hit the front when the Lions made a mess of a line-out on the halfway line, and loose-forward Jean-Luc Du Preez sent van Wyk away to dot down in the corner.
Bosch landed an easy drop-goal as the Lions failed to put pressure on the playmaker, before Jantjies missed another easy kick.
The Sharks’ No.10 added two more penalties before the break and the visitors held a healthy 14-3 lead at halftime.
The Lions came out with more intensity after the break and after concerted pressure, Sharks lock Stephan Lewies was sent to the sin bin after repeated infringements from his side.
The Lions immediately took advantage, Mostert barging his way over after a strong scrum and, four minutes later, Kriel going over in the corner. Jantjies again missed both kicks.
The home side, though, took the lead for the first time when centre Harold Vorster took a quick penalty that caught the Sharks unawares and he set Mapoe away for the try.
That gave the Lions a 20-14 lead and the momentum but the Sharks hit back 13 minutes from time as Du Preez went over, setting up the monumental finish by Combrinck, who had been given the kicking duties after Jantjies had been replaced.