Wing Ruan Combrinck scored a brace of tries on his return from six months on the sidelines as the Lions mauled the Bulls 51-14 in their Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Combrinck injured his shoulder in the Springboks’ final test of 2016 against Wales, but took just two minutes on his return to bag the first score as the Lions made it 11 wins from 12 this season and took another step towards a home quarterfinal.
Loose forwards Kwagga Smith and Warren Whiteley, prop Ruan Dreyer, lock Franco Mostert and centre Lionel Mapoe also scored in the seven-try romp for the home side, who were beaten finalists in the competition last season.
It was another dismal evening for the Bulls, with the three-time champions managing tries through centre Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel but being quite unable to contain the innovative play of the Lions.
Combrinck’s opener showed all his best qualities as he chipped the ball over Kriel and showed excellent pace to gather and score.
The Bulls were level when Serfontein finished off an excellent break from debutant winger Sibhale Maxwane.
Yet the Lions grabbed a second try when flyhalf Elton Jantjies chipped behind the Bulls defence and Courtnall Skosan outpaced the defence before laying on a score for Smith.
The Lions were dominating by this point and when Mostert pierced a gap in the Bulls defence, he set Dreyer on his way.
Kriel dotted down for the Bulls but when Whiteley grabbed a try on the half-hour mark, the Lions led 34-14 and there was still time for Combrinck to get his second in the opening half.
The carnage continued into the second period as Jantjies’ cross-kick was collected by Skosan, who fed Mostert for the try.
Amazingly, there would be no change to the score for the next 37 minutes until Mapoe rounded off a fine team move for his side’s seventh try of the night.
Tries: Combrinck 2, Smith, Dreyer, Whiteley, Mostert, Mapoe
Cons: Jantjies 5
Pens: Jantjies 2
Tries: Serfontein, Kriel
Cons: Brummer 2
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Warrick Gelant
Date: Saturday, May 20
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs, Pro Legoete
TMO: Marius Jonker