Pumas can’t answer Griquas’fightback
NELSPRUIT: The Pumas squandered a golden opportunity to stay alive in the Currie Cup semi-final race, slumping to a narrow 38-35 defeat by Griquas in a 10-try thriller at a soggy Mbombela Stadium yesterday afternoon.
The Mpumalanga side watched their playoff hopes all but evaporate as they failed to stave off a determined four-try second half comeback by the bottom-of-the-table visitors.
But the hosts only had themselves to blame for a sloppy second half performance, as the Kimberley side overturned a 28-10 halftime deficit, to steal the match with a converted Tertius Kruger try five minutes from the final hooter.
A lone penalty by the Diamond miners’ flyhalf George Whitehead in the first half eventually separ- ated the two sides, as they also harvested a bonus point to lift themselves off the foot of the table.
The hosts looked well in control and had secured a bonus point by the 28th minute as they raced into a seemingly comfortable lead, but within six minutes of the restart, the Kimberley side had already rebounded to within four points.
The home side scored four well-executed, unanswered tries via eighthman Willie Engelbrecht (2), Marko Janse van Rensburg – from a classic driving maul following a two-handed lineout take by Engelbrecht – and centre Hennie Skorbinski, who gathered a well-weighted kick inside his own half from scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer and showed a clean pair of heels in a dash for the line.
As soon as Griquas found their rhythm for the first time five minutes out from the changeover, they managed to rumble their way in phases towards the opposing tryline and flanker Wendel Wehr barrelled over.
As quickly as the Pumas had got on the scoreboard in the first period, so Griquas did in the second, as Man of the Match Tertius Kruger scored to narrow the gap from 18 points to 11. Within just three minutes of the restart, the deficit had shrunk to just four as speedy winger Kyle Steyn scored an intercept try from his own half, leaving the over-committed Pumas for dead.
The uneasy Pumas managed to edge back into a nine point lead when substitute Frankie Herne bulldozed over the line following an effective rolling maul from lineout possession.
Unfazed, Griquas kept their composure and shape and were back within four points with a superb finish out wide by winger Ederies Arendse after fullback AJ Coertzen had collected from a well-placed clearance and set Arendse away.
Griquas seized the lead for the first time in the match via the late Kruger try as substitute flyhalf Andre Swarts, who replaced Whitehead last in the match, added the conversion.
Whitehead, who landed the crucial first half penalty, arrived with his kicking boots on and converted four of his team’s five tries, with his opposite number Kobus Marais also finding his radar with five conversions. The Nelspruit-based outfit wrap up their league campaign next Saturday against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria. – ANA