It might have come against a team shorn of many of their best players and possibly somewhat out of sorts following the resignation of their coach, but it remained a stunning showing by Ackermann’s men.
They dominated in all departments and, for once, started strongly and continued their supremacy in the second period.
The five points earned kept alive the Lions’ hopes of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time, and for a brief period before the Stormers kicked off at Newlands last night, they actually led the South African conference.
That’s how far Ackermann and his charges have come in the past two years. Let’s not forget that in 2013 they didn’t even play Super Rugby, having been forced out for the Southern Kings.
The Lions scored four fantastic tries and reputations were again enhanced.
Jaco Kriel, who scored from a first half line-out drive, was a menace throughout the time he was on the field; Lionel Mapoe, who scored on the stroke of half-time after some wonderful interplay between the backs, did his chances for a World Cup spot no harm, while Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies controlled the game brilliantly from nine and 10.
But this was a team effort of some proportions – the best by the Lions this year.
Ackermann’s men – who hadn’t won by more than five points in any of their seven wins before last night and had struggled to put together a decent first 40 minutes – controlled matters from the start.
Francois Brummer, though, opened the scoring with an early penalty, but the Cheetahs wouldn’t score again in the first half.
Jantjies replied quickly by slotting two penalties before 20 minutes were up after his side had dominated the possession and territory and asked the Cheetahs to make plenty of tackles. In the 26th minute Kriel went over from a line-out drive.
Nothing went right for the men from Bloem – they were heavily penalised in the scrums – and when Mapoe crossed in the 42nd minute it was going to require a miracle by the Cheetahs if they were to turn things around.
It didn’t happen.
The pace and width of the Lions’ game eventually told and straight after the break Courtnall Skosan crossed after the Cheetahs had turned over the ball. With 15 minutes to go De Klerk was rewarded with a try, which was converted by Jantjies.
The Lions No10 didn’t miss a kick all evening and again showed why he is a genuine option to go to the World Cup.
Naka Drotske, who will leave the Cheetahs next weekend, will be bitterly disappointed in the performance of his team, but they did manage to score two second-half tries, both by flank Boom Prinsloo, who crossed after powerful line-out drives. The first came after the Lions had lost hooker Robbie Coetzee to the sin-bin.
After their disappointing performance against the Brumbies the week before, the Lions are back in the race for the play-offs and will hope to keep the pressure on the Stormers and Bulls when they host the Waratahs on Saturday.
Cheetahs: (3) 17
Tries: Prinsloo (2); Conversions: Van Wyk (2); Penalty: Brummer
Lions: (23) 40
Tries: Kriel, Mapoe, Skosan, De Klerk; Conversions: Jantjies (4); Penalties: Jantjies (4) – The Sunday Independent
Original source: Super-charged Lions tame Cheetahs