Future looks good despite cup loss

For the Lions, tragedy struck four minutes from time when Cheetahs' replacement fullback Tewis de Bruyn's converted try ensured a 20-18 victory for the home side in the Absa Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein on Saturday. But just reaching the final was a bonus in year one of the Lions' three-year plan.

For the Lions, tragedy struck four minutes from time when Cheetahs' replacement fullback Tewis de Bruyn's converted try ensured a 20-18 victory for the home side in the Absa Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein on Saturday. But just reaching the final was a bonus in year one of the Lions' three-year plan.

"We aimed for the semifinal this year. That we came so close to beating a team of the Cheetahs' calibre on their home ground in the Currie Cup final, was in itself a great achievement for our young side, and augurs well for the future," said Lions coach Eugene Eloff.

"What hurts, is that we lost to ourselves. That's the only way one can look at it after leading 18-6. Of course it was heartbreaking, but it's not the end of the world. We now know what we can achieve."

It was a match with many defining moments. There was the lost lineout when Etienne Reyneke replaced Willie Wepener that saw the Cheetahs progress right to the Lions tryline. A few phases later, De Bruyns' equalising try came, which was converted by Willem de Waal.

There was also a tackle ball that almost immediately developed into a ruck. Referee Mark Lawrence, who was outstanding in his first final, missed that one, which would have given the Lions an easy shot for a 21-6 lead and probably victory.

There was also the missed tackle of Louis Ludik - who was otherwise very good - on De Bruyn, the turnover right at the end when the Lions needed to retain possession, and three yellow cards.

Louis Strydom missed a penalty, and Earl Rose a conversion that could have sealed it. On the other hand, Cheetahs flyhalf De Waal twice slotted conversions from the touchline.

It was also a game that saw the Lions come of age in the lineouts, and the continued impressive scrummaging of their loosehead prop, Heinke van der Merwe. Unfortunately for the Lions, tighthead Lawrence Sephaka didn't have the same authority in the scrums. - Sapa

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