The Chiefs might not yet have a lot to be thankful for this season, but their depth at fullback might top the list.
After losing Damian McKenzie to a season-ending knee injury last weekend, Jack Debreczeni could be in for another stint on the sidelines.
Debreczeni was stretchered off in a neck brace late in the first half of the side's 23-17 loss to the Lions tonight. While the initial report was that Debreczeni was "okay" and cleared of any serious injury, Shaun Stevenson could see an increase in playing time at the back as the next cab off the ranks.
Stevenson had his number called earlier than expected against the Lions with Debreczeni having to leave the pitch, as the Chiefs tried to climb out of a hole in the second half.
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The Lions, who moved stars Malcolm Marx and Elton Jantjies off the bench and into the starting side when the final team lists were submitted moments before the match, started with a roar. As the sides jostled for possession, it was the visitors who looked more likely to do something with it.
The Chiefs had a few early chances to do something with the football, but were unable to capitalise on good field position, and found themselves trailing 3-0 early after a Jantjies penalty 10 minutes into the contest.
While the Lions had the upper hand, neither side looked particularly convincing. The Lions were able to extend their lead by another penalty at the 30 minute mark as all signs pointed toward an uneventful half fizzling away.
Instead, the Lions made the most of some late possession and surprising use of skill to bag two tries inside the final 10 minutes of the half. Prop Carlu Sadie claimed the first try of the night after pushing his way over from close range, before No 8 Warren Whiteley sent a deft grubber dancing along the sideline before winger Aphiwe Dyanti scooped it up and ran away to score untouched under the posts.
Showing few signs of life through most of the first half, something kicked into gear for the hosts midway through the second 40 as they began to claw into the deficit. A try to winger Sean Wainui provided his side the spark they needed; prop Nepo Laulala and midfielder Tumua Manu following suit to bring the Chiefs within three points.
However, a turnover deep in their own territory inside the final three minutes of the game buried the Chiefs' hopes of a stunning comeback. While the Lions could have just run out the clock, Jantjies slotted a dropped goal with 30 seconds to go to add some insurance points and seal an important win for the Lions, who improve their claims to the wide open South African conference.
Lions 23 (Carlu Sadie, Aphiwe Dyanti tries; Elton Jantjies 2 cons, 2 pens, dropped goal)
Chiefs 17 (Sean Wainui, Nepo Laulala, Tumua Manu tries; Marty McKenzie con)