Griquas a factor to be reckoned with

The confidence gained in winning the Vodacom Cup, and especially the way in which it was achieved, together with their players returning from the Cheetahs Super 14 team, will make Griquas a factor to be reckoned with in the Currie Cup rugby competition that gets underway on July 10.

Coach Dawie Theron, who took back the Vodacom Cup reigns this year, has made it clear the Currie Cup side will compete this year, rather than just aim for the odd upset in the competition.

“We have more quality depth than in the past, and a side that believe they can take on the best,” he said after Saturday’s 28-19 Vodacom Cup final victory over the Blue Bulls at Loftus.

But there’s more to it than just the team, assures Blue Bulls coach Nico Serfontein. “Dawie really did his homework on us,” Serfontein smiled wryly afterwards.

“They simply dominated the first phases and kept the ball from us. Their tight five, a solid if not spectacular backline and the tactical planning by their coach will take them a long way in the Currie Cup.”

Theron, a former Springbok prop who played in 13 Tests at both sides of the scrum, including two Tests against the 1997 British Lions, has built the Griquas tight five into a formidable unit.

Back with the union after his stint as Cheetahs assistant Super 14 coach last year, he formed a close relationship with his captain, Jonathan Mokuena.

“Jonno is a laid-back leader who brings calm to the players. I took a chance to appoint him as I had never worked with him before this season, but he played a huge role in our season and our win,” said the likeable but no-nonsense big man who admits to being an “old-fashioned” coach.

“I don’t believe there is place for democracy in coaching at this level.”

His side will be aiming for a spot among the top five in the Currie Cup.

“It won’t be easy, the Currie Cup is a step up,” says Theron the realist, “but we have the quality, and with players of the class of [flyhalf] Naas Olivier, [prop] Bees Roux and [wing] Bjorn Basson returning from the Cheetahs, we also get more experience.

“We’ll be losing Hennie Danillier, though,” he said about the big fullback who had a good season with the Cheetahs. “He wants to return to Bloemfontein and we won’t stand in his way.”

Cheetahs lock and flank Wayne van Heerden, is on his way to Japan and he, too, will not play Currie Cup rugby this year.

While the return of Olivier will be welcomed, it leaves Theron with a bit of a dilemma. Stand-in flyhalf Riaan Viljoen scored all 28 points in Saturday’s win—and 26 in the semifinal against the Sharks XV the week before.

“Saturday was lonely his third game at flyhalf after coming back from injury. He has everything to play at a higher level,” Theron lauded the man who also won the Vodacom Cup for the Valke against the Wildebeest in 2006 when he put over a monstrous 65 meters drop in a strong wind in Brakpan.

Viljoen, who wasn’t recognised by the Golden Lions provincial selectors while playing club rugby for Pirates in the Pirates Grand Challenge but did represent the Lions’ Sevens side, was full of praise for his forwards after Saturday’s final and said they had laid the foundation for the title win and with it the R1-million prize money.—Sapa

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