Cheetahs and Griquas inseparable in Bloemfontein

rugby27 May 2023 13:32| © SuperSport
By:David Knowles

In an early kick-off at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, the Toyota Cheetahs and Windhoek Draught Griquas played to a 29-29 draw in round 12 of the Currie Cup.

An important match for both sides, particularly Griquas who needed a win to stay in touch with the top half of the table, the pendulum swung from side to side as both teams battled for supremacy and to stay ahead on the scoreboard, although it was the Cheetahs who earned a bonus point, outscoring Griquas four tries to two.

It took two minutes for the first opportunity to open the scoring, the Cheetahs awarded a penalty which veteran flyhalf Ruan Pienaar pushed wide. Seven minutes later, Cheetahs flank Sibabalo Qoma crashed over for his fourth try of the campaign after a strong maul from a lineout and again, Pienaar failed to find the target from the conversion in what ultimately proved to be costly misses. (5-0)

Griquas were on the board in the 11th minute, flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela slotting a penalty (5-3) and in the 15th minute, after a period of great build up and continuity from Griquas which had the Cheetahs scrambling in defence, hooker Janco Uys dotted down, Dobela converting to put the visitors 5-10 ahead.

Dobela stretched the lead with another penalty (5-13) but in the 26th minute, the Cheetahs produced the try of the match when fullback Tapiwa Mafura, having joined the line on attack, put the perfect chip kick into space for wing Cohen Jasper to collect and score his side’s second try. Pienaar converted and it was game on, with Griquas 12-13 ahead.

The lead was extended to 12-20 when Griquas scored their second try in the 29th minute, lock Dylan Sjoblom getting over the line after numerous phases from close, Dobela kicking the easy conversion. A long range Griquas penalty, knocked over by fullback George Whitehead, gave Griquas what looked a decent cushion heading toward halftime (12-23), but the Cheetahs again clawed their way back, hooker Marnus van der Merwe, celebrating his 50th Currie Cup game with his 14th career try from another strong driving maul, allowed Pienaar to convert for a 19-23 advantage to Griquas heading into the halftime break.

Cheetahs flank Gideon van der Merwe scored his team’s bonus point try in the 52nd minute, again from a well-worked maul from a lineout close to the line. He peeled away to get the ball down and give the Cheetahs the lead once more, Pienaar’s conversion making it 26-23.

Dobela evened matters at 26-26 with a 57th minute penalty and for the next 15 minutes the sides remained deadlocked, the attacking flair of the Cheetahs matched against a disciplined display of defence from Griquas.

As the final 10 minutes arrived, Griquas called on Whitehead again for a long penalty kick at poles and he duly slammed the ball between the uprights for a 26-29 lead. With the clock ticking, Griquas desperately hung on to their slender lead, their defence holding firm and victory beckoning, but a cruel twist saw the Cheetahs given an 80th minute, kickable penalty. Pienaar considered kicking for the corner and using the tried and trusted driving maul toward the line, an option which had already yielded three tries, but decided to opt for the draw, his successful kick breaking Griquas’ hearts.

CHEETAHS 29: Tries 4 (Qoma, Jasper, Marnus van der Merwe, Gideon van der Merwe); Conversions 3 (Pienaar); Penalty (Pienaar)

GRIQUAS 29: Tries 2 (Uys, Sjoblom); Conversions 2 (Dobela); Penalties 5 (Dobela 3, Whitehead 2)