Griquas at their home ground of GWK Park in Kimberley are starting to displace the Cheetahs as the Sharks’ hoodoo team, with the hosts putting up another spirited display to derail the Absa Currie Cup log leaders 22-15 on Saturday afternoon.
Griquas deserve credit for the way they hung on as the game, courtesy of the Sharks’ patience with ball in hand and a series of penalties awarded by referee Pro Lekoete, extended four minutes beyond the hooter, with the visitors asserting massive pressure in their quest for an equalising converted try.
But in the end, the sustained period of attacking broke down as the ball was spilled forward in a breakdown just metres from the left corner flag and Griquas celebrated another famous victory.
It was the second consecutive week where Griquas have shocked a more highly rated team - the result follows on from their good away win over the Currie Cup champions, the Golden Lions, in Johannesburg.
The win enabled them to lift themselves from the bottom of the Currie Cup log, though the Bulls have a chance to push ahead of them again in the later game at Loftus.
The fact that the bottom-of-the-log team beat the team at the top probably says something positive about how tough the strength-versus-strength competition has become, with no team being able to afford taking the foot off the gas.
Not that the Sharks underestimated Griquas. Their coach John Plumtree spoke last week about the need to break what has become a losing sequence at the diamond city, and it was not as if the Sharks started without strong intent.
It was just that they were up against a side that was determined to put them out of their stride by putting in hard tackles and getting in between them on the hard field, and they succeeded in disrupting the Sharks’ usual free-flowing game.
The Sharks though might feel a bit aggrieved that they did not at least escape with a share of the spoils. With six minutes to go they went over for a well-constructed try to Louis Ludik only for Lekoete to consult TMO Shaun Veldsman about an incident that had happened in a previous phase.
What happened was that Sharks prop Dale Chadwick ran into two defenders ahead of ball-carrier Jean Deysel, who was then tackled, and a loose scrum ensued before the ball was spread wide for Ludik to cross the line.
Lekoete had called play on when he saw the incident. Veldsman ruled that there was obstruction and the try was disallowed, but it is questionable whether it interfered with play and you have to wonder whether going back a whole phase to look for an error might be taking television assistance a touch too far.
At the time the Sharks were trailing 19-15, so a score would have put them one point ahead.
As it turned out, Griquas were presented with a penalty opportunity minutes later that Francois Brummer kicked to cap a perfect goalkicking performance from him, and the lead was extended to seven. After that it was all about the Sharks just chasing the draw.
Ultimately it was the 17th-minute try by Griquas’ Marnus Schoeman that was the difference between the teams.
It came off a six-man lineout after a long period of sustained pressure from Griquas and broke a 3-all deadlock that had come about through Brummer and the equally pinpoint Meyer Bosman trading early penalties.
Bosman was successful with five out of five kicks at goal while Brummer succeeded with six out of six in a game which threatened to realise more tries than it did.
Griquas were never headed in the game but they might have felt at halftime that they needed to be further than 16-9 ahead.
They had played with a strong wind behind their backs and this had accounted for them enjoying 66% of the territory. The Sharks would have felt they had done well to absorb the pressure to trail by just seven points.
While the Sharks have become a good second-half team just lately – they beat both Western Province and the Cheetahs after trailing by some distance at halftime – Griquas lost to WP three weeks ago when, in similar conditions, they had led at the break.
The Sharks started to turn around the territorial deficit after halftime, and it was translated into a compression of the difference on the scoreboard too, with Bosman kicking two penalties to make it 16-15 before another Brummer penalty in the 53rd minute re-established some daylight which held through to the final whistle.
GWK Griquas – Try: Marnus Schoeman. Conversion: Francois Brummer. Penalties: Brummer (5).
The Sharks – Penalties: Meyer Bosman (5).