RUGBY NEWS - Marnus Schoeman was the unlikely hero as South African visitors the Golden Lions buried a Super Rugby jinx Saturday by defeating the Jaguares in Argentina for the first time. The Johannesburg outfit triumphed 25-16 at Estadio Jose Amalfitani with Schoeman, not part of the original starting XV, scoring three tries.
Schoeman owed his place as a loose forward to a midweek injury sustained by first choice Kwagga Smith, which forced the Springbok to withdraw from the trip to South America. The blond 30-year-old made the most of his unexpected opportunity by scoring after three, 32 and 50 minutes and becoming the only try-scorer to complete a hat-trick on the opening weekend of Super Rugby.
"I can barely believe what I achieved," Schoeman said after the Lions ended a run of three consecutive southern hemisphere championship defeats by the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. "For a loose forward to score one try is great, two is amazing and three is unbelievable. I will travel home with a permanent smile on my face. "Finally winning in Argentina is a fantastic achievement.
We have battled here in the past three seasons and it is great to be part of the team that has ended the losing sequence." The Lions, beaten in the past three Super Rugby finals, triumphed because they were more clinical in attack, defended bravely and scrummaged superbly. New Jaguares skipper, centre Jeronimo de la Fuente, bemoaned an inability to finish off good approach work by the 2018 Super Rugby quarter-finalists.
"We got inside the Lions 22 on many occasions during the match only to come away empty-handed. We have to turn this possession into points." The Argentines, playing under Gonzalo Quesada for the first time after Mario Ledesma was promoted to national team coach, were often predictable in attack. - Specman's debut romp - They missed the flair of star playmaker Nicolas Sanchez, who has joined French Top 14 club Stade Francais.
Replacement Joaquin Diaz Bonilla was solid rather than spectacular and kicked 11 points from a conversion and three penalties. Apart from Schoeman, who scored two pushover tries and the other after a five-metre scrum, the Lions points via the boot of fly-half Elton Jantjies.
Making his 120th Super Rugby appearance, the Springbok missed his first shot at goal, then succeeded with two conversions and two penalties for a 10-point tally. When prop Santiago Medrano barged over for a 16th-minute try, he put the Jaguares ahead for the only time, with the second Schoeman try helping the Lions lead 15-13 at half-time.
Earlier on Saturday Rosko Specman scored two superb tries on his Super Rugby debut as the Northern Bulls thrashed Western Stormers 40-3 in the other all-South African conference clash. The former sevens international took just four minutes to make his mark, cutting inside from the left wing and sprinting clear to dot down at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
Specman struck again on 19 minutes, this time outpacing a startled Stormers defence. "Rosko was unbelievable and we look forward to seeing how much more damage he can inflict on opponents as the season progresses," said Bulls' Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard.
A Johnny Kotze try helped the three-time former champions to go 21-3 ahead and the home team added 19 unanswered second-half points, including a Jesse Kriel try. Pollard put on a flawless 20-point goal-kicking show, slotting four conversions and four penalties from eight shots at the posts.