Cheetahs pip Griquas to semi spot
October 9, 2009
Ryan Kankowski wrapped up the Sharks' victory over Griquas © Getty Images
The Griquas fell at the final hurdle, a 45-30 defeat to the Sharks handing the final Currie Cup semi-final place to the Free State Cheetahs. The Cheetahs powered past Boland 55-10 in Wellington to sneak in the back door as the Griquas notched only one of the two points they needed to progress.
The Griquas came unstuck on their own patch, allowing the Sharks to rack up a handsome lead before mounting a spirited late comeback. Their fans will be left with thoughts of what could have been after the wheels came off following an early unbeaten charge.
The Sharks' Springboks made themselves known in Kimberley, their extra class proving the difference. It was the veteran fullback Stefan Terblanche who set them on their way, before Ruan Pienaar, in at scrum-half again and handling kicking duties, added a second try.
Winger JP Pietersen extended the visitors' lead as the clock ticked past 20 minutes before Griquas centre Barry Geel pounded for the first try of a hat-trick. His intervention was cancelled out only moments later by Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who secured the bonus-point for the Sharks after only 26 minutes.
There were no further scores before the break, but du Plessis' half-time replacement Craig Burden crashed over for the Sharks' fifth immediately after the resumption. Geel sparked a second-half comeback with two further scores, but as the home side were building momentum Burden punctured the atmosphere with his second try.
Griquas scrum-half Sarel Pretorius bagged a fourth and a bonus-point, but Ryan Kankowski's late effort for the Sharks meant heartbreak for the Kimberley faithful.
The Cheetahs were also indebted to their Springboks, with openside Heinrich Brussow underlining his class with a brace of tries on his domestic return. Boland have endured a wretched season and there was no respite for them at the last as Jongi Nokwe and JW Jonker also helped themselves to two tries apiece, with Tewis de Bruyn, Frans Viljoen and Fabian Juries completing the rout.
Danre Gerber provided the only highlights for Boland, scoring all of their points with a try, conversion and penalty.
Western Province slipped up in their final round robin outing, their 27-25 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg giving the Sharks top spot.
Province were ahead early thanks to the impressive Juan de Jongh and following a couple of penalties from Lions fly-half Herkie Kruger, fullback Joe Pietersen darted in to score the visitors' second and extend their lead.
Pietersen converted his own score before Lions centre Doppies la Grange scored the first of his brace, the second coming just after the stroke of half-time. Dusty Noble extended the Lions' lead with their third try but the home side were pegged back by a score from Province flanker Francois Louw. Their efforts were in vain however as a late penalty from Chris Jonck ensured the Sharks finished in top spot.
On Friday, the Blue Bulls ensured they will finish the Currie Cup regular season in third place with a 61-24 thumping of the Leopards at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.
The Leopards now face a promotion-relegation play-off against the Pumas or the Eagles from Division One.
The Blue Bulls led just 21-17 at the break but powered away in the second half on their way to a nine-try haul. Winger Gerhard van den Heever grabbed a brace while Springboks fly-half Morne Steyn weighed in with seven conversions and a try.
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