The Lions pipped the Sharks 20-18 in a game of two halves in their United Rugby Championship derby on Saturday to secure their first win in Durban since 2017, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
The hosts brought the intensity and effort to seize control of the contest early, scoring two unanswered tries in the first half to lead 18-3 at the break.
However, it was all the Lions in the second half, with the visitors scratching and clawing their way to a last-gasp win.
Our South African Team of the Week is about as evenly split as it gets with eight Lions and seven Sharks earning selection.
15: Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
A confident danger man in full flow. Made a habit of beating the first defender and rushed for an unrivalled 107 metres. Nice try assist for Makazole Mapimpi and a nifty touch-finder to round off his game.
14: Werner Kok (Sharks)
Not flawless but worked his socks off. Tracked the entire pitch, exploded into contact relentlessly, poached a turnover and protected possession at another ruck.
13: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)
Henco van Wyk had his moments, like the textbook tackle and jackal in the seventh minute, but his decorated direct rival made the greater overall impact.
12: Marius Louw (Lions)
The Lions’ captain fantastic. Played his heart out, made a joint-match-high five successful carries, huge hits and scored the crucial late try that led to the visitors snatching victory.
11: Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks)
Fast and strong with ball in hand, matching Louw with five successful carries while beating a joint-match-high four defenders, scored the opening try and mopped up dangerous situations on defence.
10: Sanele Nohamba (Lions)
Did Curwin Bosch have the better game? Yes. But in the end, the difference between the two teams was Nohamba and his clutch conversion. His versatility proved vital as he switched to scrumhalf after Morne van den Berg’s injury.
9: Grant Williams (Sharks)
Mr X Factor showed his flair to score a sensational try down the blindside. Had that extra bite on attack, caught Van den Berg at the base of the scrum and launched accurate box kicks.
8: Francke Horn (Lions)
Varied his play well, showing a good understanding of when to knuckle down in tight and when to fan out to the trams. Made a line break, produced a left-footed chip that caught the hosts by surprise and made a team-high 14 tackles.
7: Ruan Venter (Lions)
A freight train. Led the Lions in defenders beaten (2) and metres (46), which saw him carry defenders on his back for extra yards. Brought it on defence and chipped in a good touch-finder.
6: Emmanuel Tshituka (Lions)
James Venter worked hard and spilt blood but conceded four penalties. His Lions counterpart was more clinical and huge on defence, driving Bosch back a few metres on one occasion and making a big hit on Fassi on another.
5: Darrien Landsberg (Lions)
Did the basics well whereas Gerbrandt Grobler conceded the penalty try and yellow card that changed the complexion of the game for collapsing the maul.
4: Eben Etzebeth (Sharks) – Player of the Week
His class was clear to see across the board. Made his presence felt with an early lineout steal, sacked Van den Berg, leaving the Lions scrumhalf with a nasty gash to the head, had a hand in Mapimpi’s try, almost singlehandedly stopped an ominous driving maul and forced the final penalty to give his team a chance to pull the game out of the fire in a Man of the Match performance.
3: Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Lions)
To those who judge a book by its cover, show them the 153kg Lions leviathan’s work rate in the Durban heat and humidity and the great line speed he maintained right up until his departure in the 58th minute.
2: PJ Botha (Lions)
An all-around contributor, from his chicken-wing offload to Edwill van der Merwe to catching Williams at the base to his breakdown penalty on the stroke of halftime.
1: Ox Nche (Sharks)
Cracked the nod for his work in general play, which included a beautiful pass to put Francois Venter into space.