Lionel Cronje scored a penalty from the last kick of the game to give condemned Super Rugby outfit Southern Kings a thrilling 31-30 triumph over Northern Bulls in Pretoria Saturday.
The result-deciding kick in a round 16 clash between the South African sides followed a controversial decision that led to a five-metre scrum at which the Bulls were penalised.
After watching big-screen replays, the Argentine referee judged that Bulls flanker Jannes Kirsten had touched the ball before it trickled out of ball, leading to the set-piece.
But SuperSport TV analysts Nick Mallett and Naas Botha, a former coach and fly-half of the Springboks respectively, disagree with the decision.
However, replays of the incident suggested that the ball brushed the chest of Kirsten as it dropped.
Cronje was the 21-point star as the resurgent Kings made it five victories in seven matches a day after being told that they would not be part of Super Rugby from next year.
Soaring costs, exhaustive travel across 15 time zones, dwindling crowds and TV audiences and an unpopular format were among rhe reasons for cutting the field from 18 teams to 15.
Kings and Central Cheetahs are the South African “casualties” and an Australian team — Melbourne Rebels or Western Force — will join them on the Super Rugby scrapheap.
There has been media speculation that the Kings and Cheetahs will join an expanded European Pro12 tournament, which currently consists of Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh sides.
A maiden victory over three-time former champions the Bulls placed Kings 11th in the overall standings, ahead of four Australian and two South African teams plus the Japanese Sunwolves.
The revival by the side from eastern coastal city Port Elizabeth began with a victory over the NSW Waratahs in Sydney and last weekend they defeated the Jaguares in Argentina.
Mallett called the first half performance of the Kings “brilliant” as they raced to a 22-3 lead before a Jason Jenkins try for the hosts trimmed the gap to 12 points at half-time.
Bulls were much improved in the second half as they sought to build on a shock away victory over the Coastal Sharks in Durban last weekend.
They nudged into a 23-22 lead on 66 minutes when fly-half Tian Schoeman slotted his third penalty only for Cronje to kick a drop goal a minute later to put the Kings ahead again.
Cronje added a penalty for a five-point advantage that was overtaken when hooker Jaco Visagie barged over and Schoeman converted for a 30-28 lead with two minutes remaining.
The Kirsten incident followed and Cronje scored to give the Kings victory by the same score that brought them success in Buenos Aires last weekend.
Cronje scored a try and kicked two conversions, three penalties and a drop goal with tries by winger Makazole Mapimpi and full-back Malcolm Jaer completing Kings’ total.
Jenkins, winger Duncan Matthews and Visagie scored tries for the Bulls and Schoeman kicked three conversions and three penalties.
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