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Points in the bag

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Griquas open their Currie Cup campaign with bonus-point win over defending champions in their own backyard

MAN OF THE MATCH: Tafel Lager Griquas flyhalf and captain George Whitehead was dominant in their opening game of the Currie Cup against their hosts the Cell C Sharks on Friday. Picture: Howard Cleland BackpagePix

The two smallest rugby unions in the Currie Cup got their 2019 campaign off to similar quick starts when they scored a try within the first five minutes of their respective fixtures. But while the Phakisa Pumas were narrowly beaten 38-37 by the Golden Lions, for the Tafel Lager Griquas that opening try was just the start of things to come as they roared to a resounding 37-13 win over the Cell C Sharks at a soggy and damp Jonsson Kings Park in Durban on Friday night.

Griquas dominated their more fancied opponents, shocking the reigning Currie Cup champions with an intelligent, tigerish display in this, the opening match of their campaign, and it has to be said the Kimberley team thoroughly deserved their bonus-point victory.

The newly-crowned SuperSport Rugby Challenge champions were the superior side throughout the match and outperformed the hosts in every aspect of Friday’s game. Their captain and general George Whitehead had an outstanding game, controlling the game throughout while also contributing 17 points with the boot, in an effort that earned him the Man of the Match award.

By contrast, the Sharks – who fielded 10 of their Super Rugby side in their run-on 15 – looked a thoroughly disorganised outfit and new coach Sean Everitt has a mountain of work to do before the KZN side face Western Province next weekend.

Griquas conditioning and fitness coach Jacques du Toit told the DFA that he was happy with the way the team stuck to their plans. “It was a great effort by the boys and (we were) especially glad to promote the Griquas brand on a higher level.

“We went into the game with a well-worked plan and the players stuck to the plan and executed it well,” Du Toit said.

“As the conditioning coach I am particularly happy with the effort shown on scramble defence and the work rate of the players throughout the full 80 minutes,” he added. “Nowadays it’s not often your two props play a full 75 minutes each and do it well.”

The coach, however, warned that one win does not mean a successful campaign.

Feet on the ground

“It’s now important to understand our next challenge awaits on Friday. We will keep our feet on the ground and work hard in preparation for the Pumas game at Tafel Lager Park. We had a good win, but there are many games left before the play-offs and lots can happen; thus we need to focus forward now and not get ahead of ourselves.”

Once the “dust” at the soggy stadium had settled it was good to reflect on the fact that once again Griquas showed the ability to win a game that seemed very tight with the score at 10-6 in their favour at half-time. The two big improvements noticeable in the side this year have been the scrumming and tackling.

One Griqua supporter summed up his thoughts on the game and the team. “The tight five outmuscled the Sharks and some astute signings this year has really made Griquas a quality side.

“This bodes well for the rest of the competition,” he added.