Cape Town - It took a drop goal in injury time of the final of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge at the Bridgton Sports Grounds in Oudtshoorn for the Pumas to clinch the match by 32-30 and the title after an epic battle with Griquas.
Before Justin van Staden’s 83rd minute drop, the men from the Northern Cape held a slender 30-29 point lead, thanks to a strong comeback in the second half, but in the end it wasn’t enough to keep at bay the side from Mpumalanga, who finished the season as the only unbeaten team.
The 10 000 people who packed the stands at Bridgton were treated to a nail-biter of note as both sides went at it to secure the first senior provincial silverware of the 2018 season. For Griquas, the match ended with a sense of déjà vu after they also ended runners up last year.
Despite a slow start, which saw the Pumas race to a 22-7 lead in the first half, Peter Engledow’s men never gave up and, with less than 10 minutes to go, Griquas took a 30-22 lead.
In the 79th minute, the Pumas scored a converted try, through Mathys Joubert (wing), to close the gap, before Van Staden sealed the victory after 26 phases in injury time.
The men from Mpumalanga were under pressure in the scrums in the first half, but still managed to control proceedings, mainly through a well-functioning lineout. Their first try was by Marko Janse van Rensburg (hooker) but Griquas hit back soon afterwards when Jonathan Francke (centre) burst through.
Janse van Rensburg scored his second try which saw the Pumas regain the lead and when Stefan Willemse scored their third try - with Chris Smith adding two conversions and a penalty goal in the process - the men from Mpumalanga led by 22-7.
At the break, it was 22-10 with George Whitehead adding a penalty goal to Griquas’ tally, and the team from the Northern Cape took control in the second half, using their scrum dominance to good effect.
Griquas outside backs Kyle Steyn and AJ Coertzen scored tries while Whitehead converted both and added two penalty goals to see them take a 30-22 lead.
But the grit and determination of the Pumas were too much at the end and they finished their perfect season on a high note.
Tries: Marko Janse van Rensburg (2), Stefan Willemse, Mathys Joubert
Conversions: Chris Smith (3)
Drop goal: Justin van Staden
Tries: Jonathan Francke, Kyle Steyn, AJ Coertzen
Conversions: George Whitehead (3)
Penalties: Whitehead (3)