/ 23 September 2007

Elephants trample Eagles in George

In a shock result in a Currie Cup first-division game at Outeniqua Park in George on Saturday, the Eastern Province Mighty Elephants sprang a surprise when they defeated the Eagles 34-17.

In Wellington, Griquas beat the Boland Cavaliers 57-22, and the Lions outplayed the Valke 61-30 in Johannesburg.

The Eagles have won nine games in a row and have already qualified for the semifinals. They will be playing at home against the Griffons or the Pumas.

With rain pouring down for 70 minutes of the game, the visitors made it clear from the start that they intended to end second on the points log behind the Eagles. Their back line ran the ball from all angles of the field. In contrast, the Eagles tried to dominate with their forwards.

The Eagles rested seven of their regulars and were forced to bring on top players from the bench to try to stop the Elephants’ attack.

The outstanding player for the visitors was captain and scrumhalf Chris Jonck. He not only kept the Eagles busy, but also contributed 19 points with the boot.

The best try of the day was scored by Norman Nelson after the Elephants started a movement 5m from their try line. Nelson received the ball on the halfway line, side-stepped four Eagles players and scored under the posts for Jonck to have an easy conversion.

In the end, the home side scored two tries and the visitors replied with three tries.

The Eagles will have to rethink their tactics for Saturday’s semifinal.

Convincing win for Griquas

Griquas scored a convincing 57-22 victory against the Boland Cavaliers after leading 24-17 at half-time. The home team have themselves to blame as they made numerous errors and handling mistakes at crucial times.

Griquas scored eight tries to three and dealt the Cavaliers a severe blow ahead of next weekend’s Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls at the same ground.

But Griquas deserved their victory and were by far the most polished side on display. Centre Barry Geel was undoubtedly one of their stars with a hat-trick of tries. And then there was once again Conrad Barnard, who hardly missed a kick the whole day. He succeeded with seven conversions and a penalty.

Others who caught the eye for Griquas were right wing Bobby Joubert, scrumhalf Tobie Botes, flanker Wayne van Heerden and props Bees Roux and Regardt Dreyer.

Boland also had their moments. Lock Dries van Schalkwyk was electrifying on attack, while number eight Francois Prinsloo and props Janro van Niekerk and Tommy Dixon stood their own.

Griquas took control of the match in the 26th minute of the first half when they led 21-7. Boland, however, fought back strongly to narrow the margin to 21-17 just before the interval. But from the 17th minute in the second half it was one-way traffic with Griquas adding five tries.

Lions outplay Valke

What was little more than a Lions select squad on Saturday outplayed the Valke and kept their quest for a semifinal berth in the Currie Cup alive with a 61-30 win at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

The game seemed virtually over after two tries by the home side in the first 10 minutes. However, the Valke, still without a Currie Cup victory after 12 matches, fought back with two quick tries by Jacques Schutte and Riaan Viljoen. Schutte also converted two tries and a penalty, and Viljoen kicked a drop goal to keep their side within reach at half-time at 26-20.

Well before half-time, the notion that the two sides didn’t belong on the same field was gone. The seemingly over-confident Lions were made to fight for every point of their lead in the first half.

The Valke had succeeded in loosening up play, while the Lions forwards often preferred to watch ruck and maul proceedings rather than join in, and the backs ran it wide without much structure.

But two converted tries soon after the break by Lions right wing Jannie Boshoff and number eight Jacques Cronje put the issue beyond doubt at 40-23.

The scrappiness and lack of structure from both sides nullified a few good tries and some good performances, although most players just seemed to go through the motions in the second half, with the Lions obviously trying out a few moves not normally part of their game plan.

What must be especially worrying to the South African Rugby Union is the fact that the Lions had rested the bulk of their first-choice players for the match — and still managed the big victory and nine tries for a five-pointer on the log. — Sapa