A dubious refereeing decision in the final minute handed the Waratahs a lifeline in their 38-33 bonus point win over the Lions at Ellis Park.
Lions centre Deon van Rensburg ghosted through a gap and crossed the line that would have drawn the Lions level with the conversion under the poles to come. Referee Marius Jonker inexplicably disallowed the legitimate try that keeps the woeful Tahs in the competition, as they temporarily move to third place.
It could be a season-defining mistake from the official and what makes it worse was his overall performance was also littered with errors that left the tiny crowd of under 5000 incensed.
The Tahs could not construct any scores of their own, capitalising on four mistakes in the opening half. After half an hour the they had their bonus-point (their first since week three) and eased to a 28-13 lead. For them the job was done.
Yet again, however, the Lions were their own worst enemies. This match was all about denying the Tahs their bonus-point, but the Lions continued with their idealistic expansive game-plan that played into the hands of the negative visitors.
Lions coach Loffie Eloff predicted that the Aussies would be patient, and he was correct as all they did was wait for the Lions to make their customary mistakes and gift-wrap the points for visitors.
The hosts must be lauded for their courageous comeback as they scored 20 points in the opening quarter of the second stanza to take a 33-28 lead. But if they were more pragmatic from the first kick-off it would have been an easier task.
Willem Alberts, Doppies la Grange and Jano Vermaak were standouts in both attack and defence in the fightback, but as soon as the match was there to be closed out, the Lions defended the lead.
Flyhalf Daniel Halangahu continued with his 100% kicking record to narrow the deficit. Testament to their impotence on attack was that their first points came 28 minutes into the second half, and then Tom Carter sealed the result.
It is now the end of Eloff’s three-year plan and we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for him and the union. The Tahs meanwhile will wait and see to see if they stay in the top four.
By Grant Ball