Lions take Vodacom Cup

The Lions won the Vodacom Cup for a record fifth time by beating the Pumas by 42-28 in a highly entertaining final in Nelspruit on Friday evening.

The Lions are now the most successful team in the 16 year history of the tournament, even though it took them some time – their last series success came in 2004!

The team from Johannesburg has not even reached the final since their last success nine years ago. At one stage this season it looked like it would be another one of missed opportunities for the Lions – they lost three of their first four pool matches, but they turned it around, with the victory in the final being their sixth successive win of 2013.

The Pumas, the top team in the North Section and one of the most consistent in 2013, were playing in their first final, and could not cap a good season with the finish they would have wanted.

11 of their players were included in the SA President’s XV squad for next month’s IRB Tblisi Cup, though, with their coach, Jimmy Stonehouse, taking charge of the team in Georgia.

But it would have been bittersweet for the Pumas after a disappointing final in which both sides scored three tries.

The boot of Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who slotted all 10 of his kicks at goal, was the difference between the 2 sides. He contributed 27 of his team’s points and made sure the Pumas paid dearly for their ill-discipline, especially in the second half.

The Pumas started very well and were ahead by 10-0 early in the match, with Stefan Watermeyer (centre) going over in the corner. Fullback Coenie van Wyk then scored a great try from a deft grubber by flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout.

But the Lions never gave up and at the break, the visitors were ahead 23-20 thanks to two first-half tries by Anthony Volmink (wing) and Warren Whiteley (No 8 and captain).

Where the first half was more open, both sides knuckled down in the second, and this played into the hands of the Lions as they forced mistakes from the home team, which Boshoff duly converted into points.

Flanker Warwick Tecklenburg’s try in the 71st minute put the result beyond doubt, but Jerome Pretorius (replacement centre) got the home team’s third try before Boshoff ended off a fine display with a drop-goal in the 79th minute.

Volmink finished the season as the top try scorer in the Vodacom Cup with 13 tries. Pumas speedster Rosco Speckman’s 11 tries were next best in 2013.

The Sharks’ Fred Zeilinga finished as top scorer with 154 points, while the Steval Pumas’ Carl Bezuidenhout ended second on 128. They were the only players who scored more than 100 points this season. Boshoff’s 27-point haul in the final saw him finish the season third on the list with 96 points.

Scorers:

Pumas – Tries: Stefan Watermeyer, Coenie van Wyk, Jerome Pretorius. Conversions: Carl Bezuidenhout (2). Penalty goals: Bezuidenhout (3).

Lions – Tries: Anthony Volmink, Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg. Conversions: Maritz Boshoff (3). Penalty goals: Boshoff (6). Drop goal: Boshoff.

Vodacom Cup Top Points’ Scorers 2013:

Fred Zeilinga – 154

Carl Bezuidenhout – 128

Marnitz Boshoff – 96

André Pretorius – 93

Tony Jantjies – 79