The Cheetahs, perhaps wary of a repeat of their first round loss to the visiting Griquas, took the game to the Kimberley team.
TAFEL Lager Griquas threw away a 19-29 first half lead at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein on Wednesday to lose narrowly 33-32 against a determined Toyota Cheetahs team in their nail biting Carling Currie Cup series fixture.
The Cheetahs, perhaps wary of a repeat of their first round 31-10 loss to the visiting Griquas, took the game to the Kimberley side and opened their account within the first five minutes of play. Cheetahs’ Aidon Davids went over the whitewash but the Free State side failed to convert.
Griquas were awarded a penalty shortly afterward and George Whitehead put the score at 5-3. However, the Cheetahs were just warming up and soon enough were over the Griquas tryline from which they converted to consolidate the early lead with another try and conversion.
From then on it was punch and counter-punch with neither team giving an inch. Both teams added a seven-pointer to the scoreboard with Whitehead putting points on the board for the visitors, while Craig Barry dotted down for the hosts and Ruan Peinaar converted.
It was evident Cheetahs were not settling for a repeat of their first round clash. It was game on!
In the last 10 minutes of the first half Griquas came back with a vengeance as Christopher Hollis, James Verity-Amm and Hanru Sirgel put the visitors a clear 10 points ahead.
Griquas defended well into the second stanza until the Cheetahs, anxious for a breakthrough, made several substitutions. But at the hour-mark, the visitors had a golden chance to consolidate their lead when Siya Masuku was penalised for a ruck infringement.
Whitehead, who had a superb game overall on the day, stepped up to take the kick but missed the target.
Griquas’ vulnerability in this period was not lost on their hosts who burst into action and practically besieged the Griquas defence. Eventually the pressure told and the hosts were rewarded with two converted tries.
The determined Cheetahs retook the lead in spectacular fashion to take the narrowest of leads at 33-32.
Griquas were unable to mount a counter-attack and this result dumped Griquas out of the top four on the Currie Cup log.
Griquas have a next appointment against DHL Western Province on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in other Currie Cup action on Wednesday, the Vodacom Bulls did well to shut out the New Nation Pumas 26-33 at the Mbombela Stadium, running in five tries to three in the process.
And in Cape Town DHL Western Province thumped the Sigma Lions 35-13 which will give the Cape side a much-needed boost of confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash against Griquas at Tafel Lager Park at 1.30pm.
• As things currently stand, Griquas will have to win their last two Currie Cup fixtures with five points each, if they want to reach the semi-final stage of the competition.
The one major problem is that the team gave away at least three tries as a result of an inability to field kick-offs from the opposition which is a problem that has been ongoing since the start of the season. In fact, the try given away from a kick-off in the second half was an example of particularly poor play.
And here we go again, the line-outs were little short of a disaster … again. After starting the season with some excellent throwing, Janco Uys seems unable to find his jumpers, so it boggles the mind that Cameron Lindsay was not even on the bench when he is the best jumper in the team.
And it’s also worrying that the hooker throws to the back of the line-out, when they are already struggling to find the middle of the line-out.
On the up side, the scrums were at least marginally better, but Griquas are still struggling far too much to win their own ball. In the second half the Kimberley side was under pressure, but the team’s best tackling centre, Jonathan Franke, was replaced by a creative centre who hardly ever received the ball and then missed a number of tackles.
A disappointed Griqua captain Ruan Steenkamp spoke to the DFA after their return from Bloemfontein. “Mistakes from kick offs and poor line-outs really cost us the game,” he said. “We will rectify at practice before their next match against the Stormers on Sunday.
Griquas who hit a purple patch of form earlier in the competition have to be reminded that this is the professional era, but still basic errors are made week after week. This is simply not good enough and the team will be fortunate to make the semi-final now.
In the last three games Griquas have lost two games that they should have won. Now with two home games left, they have to dig deep to make up for this and rescue the season that earlier on looked so promising.
One cannot help feeling sorry for players like Hanru Sirgel, Gideon van der Merwe, Ashlon Davids and Johnathan Franke, who consistently play their hearts out only to be let down by errors elsewhere on the field.
The question now is, which Griquas team will turn up for the last two games?
Cheetahs 33 – Tries: David Brits, Craig Barry, Marnus van der Merwe, Junior Pokomela, Conraad van Vuuren. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar (4)
Griquas 32 – Tries: George Whitehead, Chris Hollis, James Verity-Am, Hanru Sirgel. Conversions: Whitehead (3). Penalties: Whitehead (2)
Additional reporting by Dave Alexander