Two bulldozing runs by big Rohan Janse van Rensburg in the unusual position of right wing saved the Lions from an embarrassing defeat and referee Quinten Immelman from a red face in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The SuperRugby finalists of last year squeaked home 28-25 against last seasons’ Currie Cup finalists with a bullocking Janse van Rensburg run down the right touchline in the final minutes of the game.
A refereeing error nearly handed the game to the Cheetahs on a plate soon after the Lions took the lead with a penalty try when their fast-marching maul was pulled down illegally.
The Lions’ Andries Coetzee cleared the ball from his own ’25 after a Cheetah knock-on but was inexplicably called back for taking the ball back into the safe haven of his 25.
The Cheetahs score from the ensuing play when their hero on the day Fred Zeilinga calmly converted a penalty. Zeilinga scored 20 points with his trusty boot on the day.
The game was probably saved by the reserves and Ross Cronjé deserves a mention for his break down the right flank to set Janse van Rensburg free.
Janse van Rensburg spent much of the game in the unusual position of the right wing with Lionel Mapoe playing in midfield.
It was a closely contested affair which the half-time score-line of 6 all reflects but the Cheetahs pounced on a loose Jaco Kriel pass just after the break when Raymond Rhule raced through and the opened up a ten point lead within a wink.
Flanker Ruan Ackermann was the pick of the Lions forwards on a wet pitch which made heavy work of scrummaging, and the game was nearly won or lost on scrum penalties.
Both sides suffered crippling injuries with Howard Mnisi and Sergeal Petersen leaving the field with serious injuries.
The Emirates Lions host the Waratahs at home on Saturday at 15:05.
Lions: Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2), Penalty Try. Conversions: Elton Jantjes (2). Penalties: Jantjies (3).
Cheetahs: Try: Raymond Rhule. Conversion: Fred Zeilinga. Penalties: Zeilinga (6).