Griquas hang on against Leopards
April 26, 2008
Defending champions Wildeklawer Griquas will play the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the first semifinal of this year’s R1-million Vodacom Cup after beating the Platinum Leopards 37-30 (halftime 27-10) at Absa Park in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon.

The match started out as a typically tight arm-wrestle between two platteland sides but quickly transformed into a nine-try nailbiter whose result hung in the balance right until the final whistle.

Griquas look to have the game sewn up at half-time after running in four tries but they didn’t account for the Leopards’ fighting spirit or the try-scoring hunger of left wing Jan van Zyl, who crossed for a dramatic second-half hat-trick to bring back memories of his team’s equally surprising quarter-final victory over Western Province in last year’s tournament.

But it was not to be their day this time, and Griquas now face the awesome Blue Bulls, who whipped the Golden Lions 51-7 in their last-eight encounter, in the semi-finals.

Marshalled by their nuggety scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius, Griquas gave the ball plenty of air right from the opening whistle, with the wily centre pairing of Barry Geel and Lafras Uys in good attacking form.

Griquas opened the scoring in the eighth minute when rangy lock Stephan Gerber galloped fully 40 metres from a ruck to stretch over near the posts for fullback Riaan Viljoen to convert.

The Leopards, who had adopted a territorial kicking game in the opening exchanges, then produced a broken-play gem of their own when former EP centre Basil de Doncker scampered through some weak tackling to offload to fullback Anvor Schooney, who dotted down underneath the posts.

Flyhalf Clayton Durand made no mistake with the conversion.

The Leopards seemed to gain the ascendancy in the scrums but out wide it was Griquas who were that bit sharper, with flyhalf Tobie Botes striking up a great understanding with Pretorius on his inside and Geel and Uys on his outside.

Viljoen extended Griquas’ lead to 10-7 in the 26th minute with a penalty before veteran flanker Frans Viljoen made it 15-7 when he barged over from a ruck six minutes later.

Geel then crossed for the first of his two tries in the 36th minute after great work by Passens. Viljoen added the two points to open up a 15-point gap.

Geel was on the scoreboard again two minutes later when Uys broke through a number of tackles before offloading to his centre partner, who stretched his arm to breaking point to plant the ball over the line.

Durand pulled back three points for the Leopards in injury time with a penalty to make it 27-10 at half-time but at that stage the result seemed a foregone conclusion.

The men from Potchefstroom however struck a double blow straight after the interval when their left wing Jan van Zyl was given two free runs in the 42nd and 45th minutes to cut the deficit to just five points.

Griquas managed to pull themselves together and force a penalty in the 47th minute for Viljoen to make it 30-22, but that was soon cancelled out when Durand kicked one of his own.

The unthinkable then happened when Van Zyl crossed for his hat-trick on the hour-mark to square things up at 30-30 after Viljoen coughed up the ball. Schooney missed the conversion to send the match down to the wire.

In an increasingly tense countdown to the final whistle, it was the defending champions who held their nerve: captain Hans van Dyk passed up a kick at goal in favour of a lineout drive and his decision was justified when replacement lock Brendon Snyman dived over for what proved to be the winning try. Botes’ conversion made it 37-30.

The Leopards threw everything at Griquas as things grew increasingly frantic in the final minutes but it was the home side, cheered on by a sizeable home crowd awaiting the Super 14 match between the Cheetahs and the Hurricanes, who will face the awesome Bulls for a shot at being rugby millionaires.


Wildeklawer Griquas 37 – Tries: Stephan Gerber, Frans Viljoen, Barry Geel (2), Brendon Snyman. Conversions: Riaan Viljoen (2), Tobie Botes. Penalties: Viljoen (2).

Platinum Leopards 30 – Tries: Anvor Schooney, Jan van Zyl (3). Conversions: Clayton Durand (2). Penalties: Durand (2).

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