By Quintin van Jaarsveld
The Fidelity South Coast Warriors relinquished their place at the top of the First Division South Section standings on an ill-fated afternoon at Douglas Mitchell Sports Grounds on Saturday.
The Warriors were out to avenge their 21-15 away loss to Harlequins, their only blemish of the season, in Saturday’s return fixture, but were instead condemned to the same fate as the men from the north escaped with a fortuitous 14-12 win.
If ever the Warriors had a nightmare day, it was on Saturday.
The Uvongo-based club were hit by late withdrawals of two key players – star loosehead Ben Oosthuizen and in-form No.15 Dylan Kroon – and were further depleted by a string of first-half injuries.
The hosts lost vice-captain and scrumhalf Chris Mitchell to a huge gash to his head inside the opening 15 minutes. Moments later, Southern KwaZulu-Natal prop Lourens Stapelberg left the field with a similar injury, with both men needing four stitches to close the cuts.
The Warriors’ woes were further compounded through an injury to David van Zyl. The veteran lock suffered a blow to the neck and didn’t return to the pitch after the half-time break.
All these factors led to a repeat of the previous meeting between the sides, when Quins had established a healthy lead and the Warriors had fought back gallantly.
This time, Quins managed a try, two penalties and a drop-goal to lead 14-0.
The Warriors missed several shots at goal, including a drop goal, and only opened their account on the hour-mark, flyhalf Josh Fourie going over for an unconverted try.
Quins were down to 14 men after the referee brandished a yellow card for punching and Eben Botha got over the line for a seven-pointer to put the limping Warriors in a position to win the game.
The home team got that opportunity when Fourie lined up a penalty from the 10-metre line with a minute left on the clock, but the young No.10’s effort narrowly missed to the right.
Rising star Juandré Koekemoer was named Man of the Match after another influential performance, while Dawie Snyman was the best of the backs.
“As a coach you are always disappointed if your team lose in such a way,” Warriors coach Christo Henderson told eHowz!t.
“Unfortunately, critical calls by the match referee and assistant ref put a major damper on the game.
“A number of big calls went against us, two punches were thrown which both warranted red cards, and key things were missed in the lead up to their try.
“Having said that, we only have ourselves to blame.
“We allowed them to play their game for 60 minutes and squandered 17 points with wayward goal-kicking. If we kicked all our goals it would have been a completely different ball game.”
The loss saw the Warriors drop to second place, one point behind Richards Bay, who moved to the top of the table following a walkover in their scheduled match against Westville.
Henderson said all is not lost and feels the weekend’s break to accommodate the second round of the Ebbo Bastard sub-union tournament will give the Usher Cup champions a chance to regroup.
“We can still win the league. We have a slighter tougher road now but there are still a couple of important games for all three of the top teams. We still have to play Richards Bay and they still need to play Quins and Hillcrest away from home.
“We have a tough four weeks ahead of us but the break this weekend comes at a good time as it gives us time to put the loss behind us and for a few players to recover from some niggles before we head to Richards Bay.”
Photos by Meg Fourie and MG Röscher
Warriors second XV fall just short
The Warriors second team were locked a similarly hard-fought battle.
The teams were deadlocked 0-0 at half-time and although the Warriors were much-improved from their heavy loss to Jaguars the previous week, it was not enough to avoid a 10-5 defeat.
For coach Neill Theunissen, though, it was a step in the right direction.
“It was a tough one and in the end it came down to mistakes at crunch times.
“But I am proud of the guys. They really showed character and tenacity throughout the game.”
Flank Renier le Roux was named forwards Man of the Match, while flyhalf Theuns Roux claimed the backline Man of the Match award.
Photos by MG Röscher