Wandisile Simelane dazzles for Lions

Wandisile Simelane in the Lions' Super Rugby Unlocked match against Griquas at Ellis Park.
Wandisile Simelane in the Lions' Super Rugby Unlocked match against Griquas at Ellis Park.
Image: Emirates Lions / Twitter

Former boy wonder Wandisile Simelane delivered a coming of age performance that helped propel the Lions to a 61-31 win over Griquas in their Super Rugby Unlocked clash at Ellis Park on Friday night.

His deft handling, quick feet and ability to ghost into space proved a key feature of the Lions' nine-try romp over the bottom of the table team.

Simelane, who hasn't quite dazzled with the same consistency for the Lions as he did at age group level, gave a real indication of things to come and he had at least one close by admirer.

“I'm very happy with Wandi, he's been working very hard,” said Lions captain Elton Jantjies. “He has been kept accountable and has displayed willingness to grow as a player.

“This game showed what kind of player he is. He is a guy who takes ownership of his job. I'm really happy with that. I'm happy for Wandi. I think every week he'll get better.”

Coach Ivan van Rooyen joined the chorus.

“Wandi had a good game, again. We all know how dangerous Wandi is when he is in open space. He's a world class attacker one-on-one. He had the opportunity to do that. He's a very exciting youngster, who is keen to learn and keen to keep on growing,” said the coach.

On the back of a dominant performance from their pack the Lions charged into a 28-3 lead at the break. They, however, lost their shape and loosened their grip as the game became more ragged in the second half. But they regained control in the closing minutes and reasserted their dominance.

“There are a lot of positives,” said coach Van Rooyen about his team's first win of the campaign. “We were inconsistent for about 20 minutes. I was proud of the guys and how they fought back at the end, just to get the rhythm back.”

Jantjies did not want to dwell on the period in which Griquas racked up 28 points in the second half.

“I just look at the positive side of things. A great step up from the boys. That little patch things went a little bit against us,” he said.

“I asked the boys to take responsibility when we make decisions. The boys responded quite well in the last 20.”

Overall, Van Rooyen was pleased with his team's performance but he knows there are areas on which to brush up.

“Consistency and decision-making,” he said when asked where they can improve. “We need consistency in our execution and get our error rate a little bit down.”

Earlier on Friday the Blue Bulls scored two tries in the last three minutes to clinch the SA Rugby Under-21 Championship final against the Lions. The Blue Bulls successfully defended their crown with a 48-33 win in a match yielded 12 tries.

They clawed their way back into the contest after trailing 17-10 at the break but their title defence was in doubt until five minutes from time. They duly delivered a last surge to the final whistle.

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