Prinsloo kicks Griquas into final
Gouws Prinsloo sent the Griquas into the Vodacom Cup final with a last-minute penalty as they beat the Pumas 15-14 (half-time 9-3) at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday night.
With time running out, Griquas were given a lifeline as the Pumas were penalised for collapsing a maul from an attacking lineout. Prinsloo was the man for the moment and sent the ball straight between the uprights to end the Pumas undefeated run in the competition.
The Pumas had fought back from a dismal first half performance to dominate the second stanza. JC Roos missed the conversion of the only try of the match, scored by their captain Corne Steenkamp with 13 minutes remaining, to leave the hosts just one point adrift of the visitors.
But Roos made up for the error by slotting his third penalty just four minutes later to hand the hosts a slender two point lead, after Francois Brummer had been caught offside.
A dominant performance by the visitors in the first half with possession and territory, coupled with a struggling Pumas lineout, saw the men from Kimberley on the scoreboard within 24 seconds of the first whistle thanks to Brummer. The Griquas flyhalf slotted a drop goal, which bounced over off the crossbar, after the visitors had stolen the ball from the Pumas from the kick-off.
The home side was handed an opportunity to level matters after the referee penalised Griquas for being offside at the ruck. But some backchat from the Griquas players allowed Roos an easier attempt to level the scores at 3-all after the referee marched the penalty 10m closer to the poles.
Burger Schoeman conducted proceedings at the back of the Griquas scrum with aplomb as the Pumas forwards stamped their authority in the engine room.
Prinsloo and Roos both missed penalty attempts to give their respective teams the lead, although Roos' attempt was from a massive 64m away. But it was not until the half-hour mark that Prinsloo was able to break the deadlock with a successful penalty attempt after the hosts were penalised for not rolling away with the Griquas on the attack.
Prinsloo then missed his second attempt at goal, pushing a shot from 45m out to the left of the uprights after the Pumas hooker, Jacques Momberg, was pinned for playing the ball on the ground. But the Griquas fullback made amends just three minutes later to make the score 9-3 after Giant Mtyanda was penalised for not supporting his weight at the ruck.
The Griquas second-half performance, or lack thereof, could be attributed to Brummer. The flyhalf looked a shadow of his first-half self, dropping balls and being caught in possession at every opportunity.
The flyhalf did come back into the match in the final 20 minutes, accentuated by a demonic tackle which stopped a Pumas maul and handed the Griquas with a scrum to relieve some pressure.
Roos narrowed the margin to three points with a penalty just two minutes after the restart when the Griquas were caught offside. But five minutes later, Roos missed another huge attempt from 61 metres out with the ball sailing left of the uprights.
With 20 minutes remaining, Prinsloo slotted his third penalty to give the Griquas a six-point lead once again after the home side were penalised for infringing at the lineout.
But the crowd started to get behind their team when Roos kicked a penalty into touch eight metres from the Griquas tryline. The Pumas mauled the ball up and Steenkamp broke away to dot down in the corner to send the crowd into raptures.
Roos was unable to convert the try from the touchline, with the ball sliding past the left-hand upright.
Griquas will be watching the second semi-final between the Bulls and the Golden Lions with anticipation to see who they will face in the May 17 final.
Try: Corne Steenkamp;
Penalties: JC Roos (3).
Penalties: Gouws Prinsloo (4);
Drop goal: Francois Brummer.