Injury time winner for Griquas
Griquas caused the first big upset of the season when they edged the Sharks 32-30 with an injury-time winner in Durban on Friday.
It was try after the full-time hooter by replacement Carel Greeff and a conversion from wing Nico Scheepers, who produced a flawless kicking performance, that sealed the win.
Scheepers, apart from converting both his team's tries, also kicked six penalties for a 22-point contribution.
Griquas, who took a 13-0 lead inside the first quarter, before the Sharks awoke from their early-season slumber, dominated the scrums and also managed to win plenty of turnovers at the breakdown.
The rain, which started to come down quite heavily during the game, resulted in a lot more kicking than was expected.
Griquas had clearly arrived in Durban ready for a scrap, doing whatever it took to take the bragging rights in what was very much a game of trench warfare – nothing subtle or pretty, just brutal at every collision.
The Sharks were dealt a blow shortly before the match, with captain Keegan Daniel ruled out and replaced by Jacques Botes at No.8, who also took over the captaincy.
Griquas showed their intent from the start and an extended period of possession saw them being rewarded with a 13-point lead – courtesy of a try from a strong maul, loose forward Marnus Schoeman getting the five-pointer in the third minute, with Scheepers adding the conversion and two penalties for the deserved lead.
The Sharks finally managed to get their hands on the ball and flyhalf Butch James reduced the deficit with a couple of penalties – the Sharks also putting on display some effective mauling.
With momentum in their favour captain of the night, Botes, worked his way over from close range after a scrum penalty against Griquas. Griquas were caught unawares – they were protesting loudly, given that they had dominated the scrums throughout, and a quick tap set up the score. James added the conversion to level the scores.
Griquas added another penalty to retake the lead, but with the game heading for half-time, Botes showed his class when he scored his second try – going over from close range, as he attacked off the back of a Sharks scrum.
James again converted and they took a 20-16 lead into the break.
Scheepers kicked two more penalties, in the 50th and 59th minutes, as the visitors regained the lead – 22-20.
Then came a moment of brilliance – the Sharks attacking from a poor clearance attempt by former Sharks Gouws Prinsloo, which failed to find touch. Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane and Lwazi Mvovo combined for the latter to go over.
James slotted the conversion (27-22), before Scheepers narrowed it to two points with his sixth penalty (25-27) and James making it a five-point game (30-235) with his third penalty in the 77th minute.
But Griquas were not done. They not only worked their way upfield, courtesy of a penalty and a line-out maul, but once inside the Sharks 22 there was no stopping them.
The home team was again penalised and with time already up and the hooter for full-time having sounded, the visitors had to tap and go. After a few brutal forward phases (that ball was never going to go further than a couple of metres from any ruck), Greeff worked his way over.
And still he drama was not finished, the TMO being called upon to confirm the legitimacy of the five-pointer.
With the scores tied at 30-all, it was left up to Scheepers to score the winner, the conversion, more than two minutes after regular full-time.
Man of the match: Butch James may no longer have the pace he once had, but there is nothing wrong with the top three inches. Jacques Botes, a late replacement for Keegan Daniel, played with No.8 on his back, but looked more like an openside flank and scored two vital tries. Lourens Adriaanse showed why he became a Springbok earlier this year – especially in the scrums. Howard Mnisi produced some strong runs and showed an ability to keep the ball alive. However, our award goes to Griquas wing Nico Scheepers – not just for his flawless kicking performance and match-winning conversion, but his allround game.
For the Sharks:
Tries: Botes 2, Mvovo
Cons: James 3
Pens: James 3
Tries: Schoeman, Greeff
Cons: Scheepers 2
Pens: Scheepers 6
Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Sizo Maseko, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Butch James, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jacques Botes (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jaco Nepgen, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen.
Referee: Jason Jaftha
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Reuben Rossouw
TMO: Willie Roos