Three second-half tries from the GWK Griquas saw them claw their way back to record a hard-fought 21-19 (halftime 0-13) win over the visiting Steval Pumas in their Absa Currie Cup Promotion/Relegation match at GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday night.
Flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout popped over an early penalty to hand the visitors the lead after just three minutes.
He doubled the advantage after ten minutes when Griquas No 8 Burger Schoeman was penalised for playing the ball illegally.
The home team couldn’t make any headway and it was the Pumas who had a good chance when they elected to kick a penalty for the corner.
Captain Lourens Adriaanse made an exceptional turnover at the subsequent lineout and the Griquas were awarded a scrum.
Burger Schoeman tried to pick up the ball under immense pressure but he was forced into giving to ball to scrumhalf Marnus Hugo behind their own tryline. The ball was knocked loose in the tackle and Wilmaure Louw pounced to hand the Pumas the first try of the evening.
Bezuidenhout added the extras and the Pumas had a handy 13-0 lead.
Despite being awarded four kickable penalties the Griquas chose to either kick for touch or opted for a scrum.
Although having a massive lead in both territory and possession the Griquas had nothing to show for their effort and the score remained 13-0 for the Pumas at halftime.
Pote Human must have thought his charges were intent on losing the game as they struggled yet again in the ten minutes after the interval.
Marnus Schoeman, the blond flanker, was over the line twice at that stage and both times referee Jonathan Kaplan awarded the Pumas a penalty when the Griquas were inches away from scoring.
The Pumas were dealt a massive blow when Bezuidenhout was forced off with what looked like a rib injury. His replacement, JC Roos, was the top scorer for the Pumas in the 2012 Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup First Division.
It was a moment of magic from the mercurial Willie le Roux that created the spark for the Griquas' comeback.
After burly centre Howard Mnisi busted through a tackle in the midfield, Le Roux created space on his outside and replacement flanker Carel Greeff did well to deal with the attention of Pumas fullback Coenie van Wyk to score in the corner.
Gouws Prinsloo nailed the touchline conversion and the Griquas started to come alive in the match, only trailing 13-7 after 56 minutes.
The supporters had barely sat down before Le Roux showed why he was referred to as the money man by the commentators. Le Roux made a superb offload in the tackle to find outside centre Jean Stemmet who ran in under the posts.
With Gouws adding the extras the Griquas lead for the first time in the match and started to believe they could snatch the victory.
Roos kicked a monster penalty from 45 metres to put the Pumas ahead.
They went further ahead with just eight minutes left in the match when Roos made it 19-14 with another massive kick.
With the clock winding down, Griquas kicked a penalty to the corner and after six phases referee Kaplan adjudged Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda to have committed a cynical infringement.
The big replacement was shown yellow and the Pumas were down to 14 men.
The Griquas kept to their plan and Marnus Schoeman finally had his try when the home side went over from the final lineout of the match.
With the teams deadlocked at 19-19 the pressure was firmly on young Prinsloo. Belying his youth, the fullback kicked a fantastic conversion to hand the Griquas the win and give them a massive boost ahead of the second Promotion/Relegation match next week.
The Pumas will have to regroup quickly but will take massive heart in the fact that they collected a losing bonus point and will play in front of their own supporters at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
GWK Griquas – Tries: Carel Greeff, Jean Stemmet, Marnus Schoeman ; Conversions: Gouws Prinsloo (3)
Steval Pumas – Try: Wilmaure Louw; Conversion: Carl Bezuidenhout; Penalties: Bezuidenhout (2), JC Roos (2)