Flyhalf Juan Kotzé scored 25 points as the Griffons beat the Leopards 60-36 in Welkom on Friday to their second straight Currie Cup First Division title.
The Griffons and Leopards have been the two most consistent teams across the past four seasons, winning the title between them since 2014. Last year, they contested the final which heralded the same result as today.
The game was played at a high tempo from start to finish, with the hosts making a blistering start to lead by 22 points before the visitors launched an equally impressive comeback to make it a well-contested clash.
After an early penalty, a strong solo run by captain Duan Pretorius resulted in the opening try of the game. Flyhalf Juan Kotze added the conversion and then went over for a try of his own, followed by a third touchdown by wing Tertius Maarman, which originated from a stray pass deep inside their own half for a 22-0 advantage.
Although it has to be acknowledged that the Griffons didn’t exactly have to orchestrate extravagant attacking moves. It was more a case of the Leopards failing to construct a meaning defensive structure.
But the momentum gradually shifted in the Leopards’ favour, with their captain Juandre Rudolph leading the attempted fight back from the front. Rudolph made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown, completing several turnovers for his side.
Tries by Jimmy Mpailane and Gerhard Nortier got the visitors back in the title fight, but a penalty on the stroke of half-time extended the Griffons’ lead to 25-12.
A completely different, rejuvenated Leopards team emerged from the sheds. Sticking with what worked for the Griffons earlier – a loose, open game – the Leopards notched up 19 unanswered points to take the lead for the first time in the match.
Down on their lack and shocked that they had just blown a 22-point advantage, the Griffons looked to their bench for much-needed inspiration to halt the charging Leopards. And that inspiration came in the form of replacement scrumhalf Sherwin Cupido.
The livewire sparked the Griffons’ attack and wrestled back the ascendancy when he dotted down after picking up possession at the base of the scrum. Cupido then proceeded to launch a couple of well-weighted kicks into the Leopards’ half to ensure that they played in the right area of the field.
Cupido also set up lock Neil Claassen for a try, which crucially made it an eight-point game. But there would be no riposte from the Leopards. First, lock Vince Maruping scored a brace to put the result beyond doubt before Maarman scored an intercept try to complete his double.
Rudolph had the final say when he scored shorty before full-time, but it was a try of no consequence and little consolation, given the result.
Griffons – Tries: Duan Pretorius, Juan Kotze, Tertius Maarman (2), Sherwin Cupido, Neil Claassen, Vince Maruping (2). Conversions: Kotze (5). Penalties: Kotze (2).
Leopards – Tries: Jimmy Mpailane, Gerhard Nortier, Gene Wilemse, Dane van der Westhuizen, Gideon van der Merwe, Jacques Rudolph. Conversions: Nortier (3).
Griffons – 15 Selvyn Davids, 14 Vuyo Mboto, 13 Duan Pretorius, 12 Arthur Williams, 11 Tertuis Maarman, 10 Jaun Kotzé, 9 Louis Venter, 8 Cody Basson, 7 Jean Pretorius, 6 Henco Greyling, 5 Neil Claassen, 4 Gavin Annandale, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 Khwezi Mkhafu, 1 Barend Potgieter.
Subs: 16 Andrew du Plessis, 17 Danie van der Merwe, 18 Johan van der Hoogt, 19 Vince Maruping, 20 Sherwin Cupido, 21 Wynand Pienaar, 22 Joubert Engelbrecht.
Leopards – 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Jimmy Mpailane, 13 Elden Schoeman, 12 Bradley Moolman, 11 Gene Willemse, 10 Gerhard Nortier, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Marno Redelinghuys, 6 Juan Language, 5 Loftus Morrison, 4 Sthembiso Mhlongo, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Dane van der Westhuizen, 1 Joe Smith.
Subs: 16 Marius Stander, 17 Dewald Dekker, 18 Boela Venter, 19 Gideon van der Merwe, 20 Lungelo Gosa, 21 Weppies Wepener, 22 Dean Gordon.
Photo: Gallo Images
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