De Wet Kruger scored two crucial tries as Griquas fought back to tame the Free State Cheetahs 30-25 in a Currie Cup match at Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The home side wasted an 11-point lead in the second half after winger Makazole Mapimpi was sin-binned, which gave the Griquas the inspiration they needed to claw their way back.
Kruger was at the forefront of his side’s fightback – the reserve forward scored two second-half tries, the latter in the dying moments to put the visitors into a 28-25 lead with the conversion to follow.
Cheetahs flyhalf and Currie Cup rookie Ryno Eksteen opened the scoring with a penalty right in front of the posts.
Andre Swarts scored the first three points for the away side. Cheetahs skipper Neil Jordaan scored the game’s opening try when he exposed the Griquas on the outside by getting through a gap he created by holding the ball in both hands. Eksteen converted to make the score 10-3.
In the 19th minute, Swarts reduced the deficit with another penalty conversion. The Cheetahs’ immense scrum then stepped up to the plate later on. They demolished the away side’s efforts to keep them out, leaving referee Quinton Immelman no choice but to award a penalty try which Eksteen converted. the score remained 17-6 by half-time.
The Griquas secured a dream start to the second 40. Cheetahs winger Makazole Mapimpi was yellow carded for intentionally disrupting a try-scoring opportunity. The resulting five metre scrum saw the ball sent to Swarts, whose quick feet dazzled the home side’s defenders, seeing him score and convert his own try.
After 57 minutes, the Griquas gave the home side a taste of their own medicine when De Wet Kruger scored off the back of a monstrous five metre scrum. Swarts added the extras to make it 20-17.
Kruger then gave away a penalty at the breakdown which allowed the home side to level the score ten minutes before the final whistle. However, George Whitehead regained the lead for the Griquas with a 73rd minute penalty.
Mapimpi made amends for his earlier sin-binning with a try. He gathered a Ryno Benjamin grubber close to the touchline and made no mistake with the grounding this time.
But in one final twist, Kruger secured his brace, bursting through three tackles to score in the right corner. Whitehead slotted the conversion from a tight angle.
After the full-time hooter, the Griquas survived a late Cheetahs attack to earn a 30-25 victory.
Free State Cheetahs:
Tries: Jordaan 2, Mapimpi
Cons: Eksteen 2,
Pens: Eksteen, Blommetjies
Yellow Card: Mapimpi
Tries: Swarts, Kruger 2
Cons: Swarts 2, Whitehead
Pens: Swarts 2, Whitehead
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rosco Specman, 13 Jacobus Jonker, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ryno Eksteen, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Niell Jordaan (captain), 5 Daniel Hugo, 4 Armand Koster, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Charles Marais.
Replacements: 16 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 17 Joseph Dweba, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Chris Dry, 20 Zee Mkhabela, 21 Sergeal Petersen, 22 Malcolm Jaer.
Griquas: 15 Eric Zana, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Tertius Kruger, 12 Johnathan Francke, 11 Adriaan Coertzen (captain), 10 Andre Swarts, 9 Christiaan Meyer, 8 Kevin Kaba, 7 Shaun McDonald, 6 Wendal Wehr, 5 FP Pelser, 4 Wandile Putuma, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Devon Martinus.
Replacements: 16 AJ Le Roux, 17 Stephan Kotze, 18 Sintu Manjezi, 19 DeWet Kruger, 20 Renier Botha, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Christopher Bosch.
Referee: Quinton Immelman.
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Anevuyo Fakade
TMO: Marius Jonker