The Cell C Sharks’ defence of the Currie Cup crown was dealt a blow on the opening weekend after going down 37-13 to the visiting Tafel Lager Griquas at Jonsson KINGS PARK on Friday evening.
Griquas, with the benefit of a successful SuperSport Challenge campaign behind them and minimal disruption to personnel all year, put in a spirited effort from the start to earn a hard-earned victory.
Two minutes into the game, Griquas got their hands on turnover ball and quickly made it count with the Cell C Sharks having to quickly turn from attack into defence but conceding the early try.
With their tails up courtesy of an early 7-nil lead, the visitors continued to exert pressure, keeping us in our half for the next 10 minutes but couldn’t make it count, a penalty kicked at posts went wide, before we managed to get out of our half with a relieving penalty.
Griquas proved to be up to the challenge on defence and kept us out for the next 10 minutes as we pressed hard, before Curwin Bosch kicked a long range 45m penalty to get the Cell C Sharks on the scoreboard with 15 minutes of the half remaining.
Smart tactical kicking got us back into Griquas’ territory before they conceded another penalty on the ground, Bosch having an easier shot at posts and again bang-on-target to take the Cell C Sharks to within one point of the visitors.
However Griquas managed to earn a penalty which was sent through the posts to give them a 10-5 lead with the half-time break beckoning. There were a couple of minutes of nail-biting stuff with both sides looking to add to their earlier scores, but neither was able to close matters out.
As they had in the first half, Griquas struck early in the second, with penalty advantage offered, a high kick into the corner bounced free and was touched down for their second try that with the successful conversion, had the tourists leading 17-6.
Another penalty for Griquas, this one close to the halfway line, saw the men from Kimberly extend their lead to 14 points with half an hour remaining and worrying times for the Cell C Sharks who weren’t finding the visitors at all charitable.
A third penalty for Griquas took them beyond two converted tries, but JP Pietersen and Tera Mtembu combined well to initiate a dangerous attack before Pietersen was brought down inches from the tryline. However, Cameron Wright managed to twist his way through the defence to score the all-important try which Bosch converted to return the scoreboard to some measure of respectability.
Griquas were having none of it though and shortly afterwards put us under pressure in our 22 and then from a strong maul, managed to drive over the tryline for their third try as the game crept into the final 10 minutes, Griquas having built up a 30-13 lead.
A few minutes later they had another kickable penalty, this time sending it to touch and again using their rolling maul to good effect for the fourth try and with it, the game.
There were a few exciting moments in the dying minutes as the Cell C Sharks tried hard to get one last score, but Griquas managed to poach the ball and hold out for the win.
For the Sharks:
Pens: Bosch 2
Tries: Burger, Haznar, Arnoldi 2
Cons: Whitehead 4
Pens: Whitehead 3