Earl Rose scored a try with ten minutes remaining on the clock to seal the Lions 27-22 bonus point victory over the Highlanders on Friday in Round 13 of the Super14.
Lions number 10 Andre Pretorius had a poor night with the boot by his standards but redeemed himself with the crowd when he kicked a late dro goal to give the Lions a little more breathing space with four minutes to go.
The Highlanders then mounted a big surge at the death but the Lions defence held them out but only just as the Lions gave away two easily kickable penalties after full time but as the Highlanders needed a try they had to run the ball.
The Highlanders took the lead in the match after the first quarter but as the match reached the final quarter the altitude started to take it's toll on the tourists and they started to fade and allow the Lions back into the match after leading 5-19 at the break.
In a match which was obviously a clash between two of the bottom sides with errors abounding - especially in the first half - the Lions went into the lead in the fifth minute when Willem Alberts picked up a ball lost forward by the Highlanders, ran well and then kicked ahead for the visitors to carry over.
From the resulting five metres scrum under the posts, the ball was moved to the left wing where Michael Killian went over . Enter Earl Rose, who was roundly booed by the rather sparse home crowd after his third major error.
Rose was moved to the right wing shortly after the first quarter in a swap with Louis Ludik - who, as one of the best two fullbacks in the country, should have been there from the outset.
From a wonderful Lions move that just about went the length of the field, the Highlanders returned a deep kick from -another - botched pass by the home side. Rose opted for a quick throw to collect himself.
He let the ball bounce and then found the defence on him. He was caught when he tried to step his way around a defender and Alando Soakai was on hand to score.
The first Rose error seemed to put a spring in the Highlanders' collective step, and he cost his side another four times in the next seven minutes with two knocks and also provided the visitors with an attacking lineout ball.
In the 29th minute he was again caught with the ball, but this time there was some help on hand.
However, from the ensuing lineout the Highlanders attacked and Ben Smith went over despite the attentions of Michael Killian. With Israel Dagg converting this try as well as that of Jimmy Cowan's in the 40th minute, the Highlanders went in to the break a comfortable 19-5 ahead.
Just after the restart, with the Lions looking threatening, a Rose pass was intercepted - and six minutes later he lost the ball from a promising move.
Then, in the 68th minute, Rose botched a man-over Lions attack which put the Highlanders back on attack.
It simply wasn't his night against a very average side, and a timely warning for De Villiers that Rose is not ready for the big time.
A penalty by Dagg put the visitors 22-5 up, before Willem Alberts, who had a storming game, scored after two good attacks by the Lions for Andre Pretorius to miss another conversion (22-10).
Nine minutes later it was Alberts again, and this time he sent Jano Vermaak over and Pretorius found the target.
At 22-17 the Lions were within striking distance. It was then all the Lions, and they played some good, exciting rugby - and ironically it was Rose who rounded off after a good run by Killian.
Pretorius converted to put the Lions ahead at 24-22 and a Pretorius drop goal six minutes from time put the pressure on the Highlanders.
The Lions defence held out for only their fourth win from 12 matches.
If Rose fully deserved a cross next to his name, Jano Vermaak - man of the match - must have made De Villiers take note of his class for the umpteenth time this season. Everything he did was good - and he must be close to a Test call-up after the demise of Stormers scrumhalf Ricky Januarie.
Tries -Michael Killian,Willem Alberts,Jano Vermaak,E Rose
Conversions -Andre Pretorius 2
Drop Goals -Andre Pretorius
Tries -Alando Soakai,Ben Smith, Jimmy Cowan
Penalties -Israel Dagg
Conversions -Israel Dagg 2
Drop Goals -
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa)
Lions :Earl Rose, Louis Ludik, Jaque Fourie, Doppies La Grange, Deon van Rensburg, Andre Pretorius, Jano Vermaak, Willem Alberts, Robert Kruger, Cobus , Grobbelaar / Johan van Deventer, Anton van Zyl, Jannes Labuschagne, Lawrence Sephaka, Willie Wepener, JC Janse van Rensburg.
Reserves: Hans van Dyk, Gert Muller, Franco van der Merwe, Todd Clever, Chris Jonck, Walter Venter, Michael Killian.
Highlanders - Provisional team:1 Jamie Mackintosh /Chris King, 2 David Hall , 3 Chris King/Clint Newland , 4 Hayden Triggs , 5 Tom Donnelly , 6 Adam Thomson , 7 Alando Soakai , 8 Steven Setephano , 9 Jimmy Cowan (C) , 10 Mathew Berquist , 11 Kenny Lynn , 12 Johnny Leota , 13 Jason Shoemark , 14 Ben Smith, 15 Israel Dagg