The Lions finished the season as Super Rugby’s top ranked team which means that as long as they keep winning they will host the final.
While the Lions finished on top of the standings the Sharks finished as the lowest ranked qualifying team.
The Lions have had four wins this season against the teams that have reached the play offs and two of those were against the Sharks.
However, the Joburg men have beaten the Durban side twice this season and five of the last six matches. The Sharks’ previous win over the Lions was in 2015 at Kings Park.
The Durban-based franchise has been runners-up five times, lost in the semifinals on four occasions and been knocked out in the quarterfinals or preliminary playoffs, twice.
The Lions, have, however, won a Super Rugby tournament; winning the 1993 Super 10. They also appeared in two others finals – losing 16-30 to Queensland in the 1995 Final and 3-20 to the Hurricanes last year.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: BEEP! BEEP! We are underway in Johannesburg in what is only the fifth all-South African playoff match in the competition’s history. The weather is perfect on the Highveld and we should be in for a cracking derby.
2.00: The Sharks knock on straight from the kick-off. The Lions go quickly from the scrum and make metres. The visitors are penalised for pulling in the scrumhalf. They go to the corner.
3.00: Philip van der Walt is pinged for sacking the maul; Elton Jantjies kicks to the corner, again.
5.00: The Sharks repel the Lions onslaught; after several phases on the try line, the Lions lose the ball forward and Jacobus Reinach clears with a beautiful kick. However, Andries Coetzee returns a touched kick deep into the opposition’s 22, and the home team have the lineout.
7.00: Somehow, thanks to good defending and work at the breakdown by Daniel du Preez and Jean-Luc du Preez, the visitors get the scrum. The so-called “Brothers Grim” were immense.
8.00: Referee Marius van der Westhuizen pings Thomas du Toit for collapsing the reset scrum; tough call by the ref. Skipper Jaco Kriel calls for a shot at goal.
9.00: MISS! Janjies hits the post from almost straight in front and 20 metres out. That was a poor kick from Jantjies. The Sharks clear the danger, but Etienne Oosthuizen is being checked for an off-the-ball incident on Lionel Mapoe. It is blocking and obstruction.
10.00: PENALTY! Jantjies does not miss this time: 3-0
11.00: TRY Jacobus van Wyk! The Sharks hit back after Jantjies throws a disastrous interception to Lukhanyo Am after Andre Esterhuizen knocked down Mapoe’s attempted lob. The centre offloads and the ball is transferred to Jean-Luc du Preez, who sends the winger away in the corner: 3-5
12.00: MISS! The conversion is wide past the left-hand post: 3-5
16.00: The Lions are inside the Sharks’ 22, but after another multi-phase play, the Lions lose the ball with some shoddy passing and handling, giving the visitors a chance to clear the danger. There have been lots of these unforced errors by both teams; nerves must be a factor at Ellis Park.
17.00: DROP GOAL! Curwin Bosch drops back, deep into the pocket, sets himself, and under no pressure whatsoever, bangs over the drop-kick to extend the Sharks’ lead: 3-8
19.00: Jaco Kriel breaks down the sideline, throws a pass inside but it is intercepted by Philip van der Walt. The Sharks halt the Lions progress, the ball is kicked away and Bosch clears a short kick, so the home team have possession, just outside the Sharks’ 22.
22.00: Mapoe does well to get the Lions inside good attacking position, but again, Jantjies throws a forward pass and the momentum is lost. Scrum to the Sharks, just outside their 22.
23.00: Penalty to the Lions after Marius van der Westhuizen blows up Thomas du Toit for hinging. That is the second time the loosehead has been on the wrong side of the man with the whistle.
24.00: MISS! Jantjies with another terrible missed penalty from close range. What is going on with the Springbok flyhalf?
25.00: The Lions lose their own lineout, but get the scrum. The Sharks bulldoze the red scrum. Daniel du Preez starts the counter-attack.
27.00: Daniel du Preez goes close to scoring after making another break. He is tackled by Malcolm Marx and the No 8 is penalised for holding. Lions survive this time. Mahlatse Ralepelle is off for Franco Marais.
30.00: Jaco Kriel makes another break after Kwagga Smith’s initial charge. The Lions go wide after the quick ball but lose the ball at the ruck and the visitors clear. Kriel swerved his hips and showed a turn of pace but he should have offloaded to Mapoe, who in support, would have been clear under the posts. Big moment.
32.00: Coetzee, chasing a kick, slips and the Sharks get the ball, however, Am cannot gather and loses the ball forward. Had the centre gathered, the visitors would have been away without any cover at the back for the Lions.
34.00: Oh dear! Jantjies knocks on, attempting a complicated backline move, the Lions’ forwards win the ball back, but then Ross Cronje loses the ball and the Sharks win the penalty.
35.00: PENALTY! Bosch slots the difficult three-pointer: 3-11
37.00: Andries Ferreira knocks on inside the Sharks’ 22; that’s the 10th handling error by the home team, while the visitors have made five. The Lions are frenetic and it’s costing them in the first-half.
38.00: Jacques van Rooyen is penalised for illegal scrummaging. Bosch sends the ball deep into the Lions’ 22.
39.00: Andries Ferreira is penalised for offsides at the ruck; he is also off his feet. Marx did well but was cleaned out by Jean-Luc du Preez. Bosch will kick from near the halfway line.
40.00: PENALTY! Bosch slots another BIG penalty to extend his side’s lead: 3-14
41.00: The Sharks claim the restart and Reinach, bangs the ball into the stands.
The half-time score was Lions 3 Sharks 14
41.00: BEEP! BEEP! The second half is underway. Bosch attempts another long range drop goal but it drifts left.
43.00: The second-half has started as the first ended; very scrappy from both teams. The Sharks knock on, giving the Lions good field position.
45.00: Thomas du Toit has been penalised again; his third of the match. Referee Marius van der Westhuizen calls over Philip van der Walt and tells him if Du Toit gives away another penalty, he is off. Jantjies kicks to the corner.
46.00: YELLOW CARD! Stephan Lewies is sent to the bin. That’s harsh because there was no team warning. Again, the Lions don’t take the points, instead, they kick to the corner.
48.00: TRY Franco Mostert! Another collapse by Du Toit sees the ref play advantage. The Lions go right through Coetzee. The fullback is stopped but the lock forward powers over from the next phase: 8-14
49.00: MISS! Jantjies misses another simple kick, that’s eight points that have been left on the field: 8-14
50.00: Jean-Luc du Preez has been penalised again at the breakdown for not releasing. Jantjies kicks into the Sharks’ 22.
52.00: TRY Jaco Kriel! It’s all Lions at the moment. After 11 phases, the skipper barges over in the corner. The home team are taking advantage of their extra man: 13-14
53.00: MISS! Jantjies is having a shocker; his kick is very wide and barely made the goal line: 13-14
56.00: The Lions have had 70 percent possession in the second-half. All these Sharks tackles will make a difference in the end. Lewies is back on, but his card cost his team 10 points.
58.00: We are approaching the last quarter and Johan Ackermann has not made any substitutions, while Robert du Preez has only made one.
60.00: Jantjies puts in a good crossfield kick to Kriel, on the wing, but the skipper is tackled out.
61.00: TRY Lionel Mapoe! Harold Vorster takes a quick penalty near his 22. He raced down the field, draws Garth April and sends the supporting Mapoe away for the Lions’ third try: 18-14
62.00: Conversion! Jantjies, finally, gets his radar right: 20-14
63.00: Kriel is penalised at the breakdown and the Sharks have a decision to make: they go to touch.
65.00: TRY Cobus Reinach? The Sharks bulldoze the Lions from the driving maul, pushing them back 15 metres. The ref plays advantage for collapsing the maul. The visitors go wide and earn another advantage for offsides before the scrumhalf dives over. Was there an obstruction by the Sharks? NO TRY!
65.00: YELLOW CARD! Franco Mostert is off for an indiscretion from the collapsed maul. Sharks opt for a five-metre scrum.
67.00: TRY Daniel du Preez! The Sharks smash the Lions scrum and would have earned a penalty try, but the ref lets play carry on. Dan du Preez picks up at the base of the ruck and dives against the post for the try: 20-19
68.00: Bosch can’t miss from in front and the Durban men lead again: 20-21
69.00: Lukhanyo Am is penalised for offsides. The Lions will take a shot at goal, finally.
70.00: MISS! Ruan Combrinck has taken over kicking duties from Jantjies, he too, misses a simple kick from just wide of the poles. That’s 13 missed points by the hosts: 20-21
73.00: Time is ticking down on the Lions’ season. They are held up in the tackle and the visitors get the scrum on halfway.
74.00: Bosch attempts an outrageous drop-goal but the ball bounces short. The Lions come back and again, the flyhalf goes for the long range drop kick. again, it’s short.
76.00: ALMOST! Etienne Oosthuizen goes to the boot, the chase is good, but Jacobus van Wyk cannot gather because he is tackled early by Courtnall Skosan. The TMO is checking for the early tackle. No penalty because Van Wyk has over-run the ball.
77.00: Lwazi Mvovo botches a move; he should have kicked a bomb, instead, he is tackled and loses the ball. The fullback is then pinged for offside. Ruan Combrinck will attempt a massive 58-metre penalty.
78.00: PENALTY! Ruan Combrinck slots a massive kick under huge pressure to give the Lions a two-point lead with two minutes remaining: 23-21
80.00: The hooter sounds and the Sharks lose the ball at the breakdown: game over.
The final score after 80 minutes is Lions 23 (3) Sharks 21 (14)
Tries – Mostert, Kriel, Mapoe
Pen – Jantjies, Combrinck
Con – Jantjies
Cards – Mostert (Yellow, 66th minute)
Tries – Van Wyk, D. du Preez
Pen – Bosch (2)
Con – Bosch
Drop – Bosch
Cards – Lewies (Yellow, 46th minute)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 1: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Ref 2: Egon Seconds
TMO: Marius Jonker
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Albertus Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Sylvian Mahuza, 23, Rohan Janse van Rensburg
15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Jacobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jacobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 Jeremy Ward