The Lions nearly wasted their No 1 seeding overnight, needing a 77th-minute penalty from their own half to edge past the Sharks 23-21 and into the Super Rugby semifinals.Victory for the Johannesburg-based Lions set up a meeting next weekend with the defending champion Hurricanes, who progressed into the final four on Friday.
The Lions, who topped the regular-season standings, produced an error-strewn first half at Ellis Park, dropping passes and missing kicks at goal to trail 14-3 at the break.The Sharks, written off before the game after squeezing into the playoffs as the lowest seed, scored a first-half try by Kobus van Wyk off a turnover and pounced on nearly every Lions mistake. The home team re-found the attacking edge that took it to a 14-1 record in the league stage with tries by Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel and Lionel Mapoe in the first 20 minutes of the second half. That put the Lions ahead 20-14.There was still drama to play out, though, with Sharks loose forward Daniel du Preez powering over with 15 to go.Lions wing Ruan Combrinck was left with a shot from inside his own half right at the end to steal the win. He landed it, and the Lions clung on.