Griquas ended the Free State Cheetahs’ winning run with a 30-25 victory in Bloemfontein on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Cheetahs came into this match having won their last 13 Currie Cup games, including three this season. They appeared to have made it 14 when Makazole Mapimpi chased down Rayno Benjamin’s grubber kick in the 75th minute to put the hosts ahead 25-23.
Free State regained possession from the restart, but Zee Mkhabela’s kick didn’t go far enough, giving Griquas the chance to attack again. After a strong run from Ewald van der Westhuizen, the ball went wide to replacement loose forward De Wet Kruger, who bounced off two tackles to score his second try. George Whitehead nailed the touchline conversion, which meant Free State needed a converted try to win it.
The hosts did manage to get the ball back and in the 82nd minute, Sergeal Petersen handed off a defender and found Malcolm Jaer. But he lost the ball forward in the tackle and Griquas’ celebrations began.
It was Griquas’ second big scalp in as many games, following their win against Western Province in Kimberley on Wednesday.
The Cheetahs will be disappointed with the result, considering that they led 17-6 after half an hour.
Ryno Eksteen and André Swarts exchanged early penalties, before Neill Jordaan scored the first of his two tries. Rosko Specman took a quick penalty tap and raced into Griquas’ 22, with the Cheetahs then sending the ball wide to the Cheetahs captain. Eksteen nailed the touchline conversion, before Swarts’ second penalty reduced the deficit to four.
Free State should have scored their second try in the 28th minute after Mkhabela broke through Griquas’ defence and took play up to the 22, but Henco Venter lost the ball over the tryline. However, the referee and TMO ruled that there had been a dangerous tackle by Griquas in the buildup, and while the Cheetahs were held up from a lineout driving maul, Jordaan went over from the resultant scrum. Eksteen was again on target.
Griquas turned down an easy three points late in the half when they opted to kick for the corner only to lose possession from the lineout. Soon after, Specman had a try disallowed when TV replays showed the pass from Reniel Hugo had been forward.
The visitors made a great start to the second half. Swarts broke through the Cheetahs’ defence and while he lost the ball in the tackle, it went backwards, and was kicked ahead by Christiaan Meyer. The scrumhalf wasn’t able to win the race to the ball, but he had been pushed beforehand by Mapimpi, who was yellow-carded. The visitors opted to scrum from the penalty, and Meyer put Swarts over for a deserved try.
However, the Cheetahs would only concede those seven points while down to 14 men. In fact, they would have been disappointed not to score a try themselves during that period when Petersen was unable to hold on to a pass with the tryline in sight.
Griquas did take the lead in the 58th minute, though, when Kruger scored from the back of a powerful scrum. Swarts’ conversion made it 20-17, although he would miss a penalty soon after.
The Cheetahs were unlucky not to score when Petersen’s grubber bounced away from Mapimpi in the deadball area, and another missed penalty from Swarts again prevented Griquas from extending their advantage.
With 12 minutes to go, Clayton Blommetjies levelled the scores with a ruck penalty, and Swarts was substituted by Whitehead.
He didn’t have long to wait for his first shot at goal, with Juan-Philip Smith being penalised for shouting instructions at the referee. The ball went over the crossbar to put Griquas back in front.
The Cheetahs then appeared to have secured victory when Mapimpi scored, but Kruger’s try gave Griquas a deserved win.
Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Neil Jordaan (2), Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Ryno Eksteen (2). Penalties: Eksteen, Clayton Blommetjies.
Griquas – Try: André Swarts, De Wet Kruger (2). Conversions: Swarts (2), George Whitehead. Penalties: Swarts (2), Whitehead.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Zee Mkhabela, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Neil Jordaan (c), 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Armand Koster, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2, Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Ox Nche, 17 Joseph Dweba, 18 Rynier Bernado, 19 Chris Dry, 20 Juan-Philip Smith, 21 Sergeal Petersen 22 Malcolm Jaer.
Griquas – 15 Eric Zana, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Adriaan Coertzen (c), 10 André Swarts, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Kevin Kaba, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 FP Pelser, 4 Wandile Putuma, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Devon Martinus.
Subs: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Stephan Kotze, 18 Sintu Manjezi, 19 De Wet Kruger, 20 Renier Botha, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Christopher Bosch.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images