Griquas into Currie Cup semis for first time in 21 years
Griquas secured qualification for the Currie Cup semifinals for the first time since 1998 after a clinical 27-23 win over Western Province in Kimberley on Friday night.
The outcome also had left WP in danger of not making the playoffs to compound what has been a miserable campaign for John Dobson’s side.
WP will now have to rely on other results going their way. They have to hope that the Sharks and Bulls, both below them on the standings going into the penultimate weekend, also stutter over the final week.
But Griquas are the real story here. They are the little team that could. Coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has quietly evolved into a one of the most astute mentors in SA after successful stints at Varsity Cup level before periods at Boland and the Pumas brought him to Kimberley.
The Griquas pack emasculated the WP eight in the tight exchanges and from that base Griquas’ impressive outside backs flourished behind a clinical flyhalf in George Whitehead.
They do the basics of set piece and defence well, have a good general in Whitehead to steer them into the right areas of the field and enough creativity and confidence to attack from anywhere.
Griquas needed less than two minutes to open their account against WP in front of a near capacity crowd at Tafel Lager Park.
Wing Ederies Arendse finished after Whitehead started the move with a quick tap on halfway, following a scrum penalty.
Whitehead’s tap caught WP dozing. Quick minds were matched by quick feet and hands and it set the tone for a difficult evening for the visitors.
Another try for wing Eduan Keyter followed after 33 minutes, which came after SP Marais slotted a penalty for WP to give the home side a handy 14-3 lead at the break.
Like the quality team they are, Griquas absorbed a heavy period of WP pressure immediately after the break, conceding a penalty and a try by WP wing Seabelo Senatla in the period.
Whitehead, who played three games for the Stormers in 2018, sandwiched another penalty inbetween the WP scores to keep the home side in front.
When Arendse finished off a brilliant counter-attacking move that started five metres from Griquas’ line just short of the hour mark, the 11,000-strong crowd could start believing in a semi-final place.
Whitehead’s second penalty of the night, 12 minutes from time, took the lead out to 16 points and although WP staged a late rally, it was too late.
“It was tough but we fought for 80 minutes and teamwork pulled us through,” said Whitehead, the leading Currie Cup points scorer this season with 59.
“I and my teammates are very proud at reaching the semifinals after battling for many seasons and we look forward to our final league match [against the Golden Lions] with confidence.”
One sliver of good news for WP was the return of Damian Willemse. The playmaker entered the match midway through the second half and showed some deft touches.
Playing fullback, he put in several accurate tactical kicks and made one brilliant line break that almost led to a try.
The 20-year-old’s push for a World Cup place might be too late, but he showed no discomfort after a long knee injury layoff.
Griquas – Tries: Ederies Arendse (2), Eduan Keyter. Conversions: George Whitehead (3). Penalties: Whitehead (2).
Western Province – Tries: Seabelo Senatla (2), Nama Xaba. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalties: Marais (2).
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