Kimberley Police made rugby history on Saturday when they beat arch-rivals Kuruman in an extraordinary and unprecedented Griqualand West Super League final played in front of over 1,000 spectators at the Northern Cape mining town’s showgrounds.
The match, which the Kimberley Bobbies eventually won 39-33, is believed to be the first in South African rugby history to be decided by a penalty shootout.
Unbeaten Kuruman, who had trounced Kimberley 41-19 in the league phases, raced to a 14-3 lead after 10 minutes. The visitors however clawed their way back to 27-22 before veteran wing Willie van der Bergh dotted down in the dying seconds to force the game into extra time.
The sides remained locked at 27-27 after 100 minutes and it was thereafter decided to go to penalties. Kimberley flyhalf Jacques Roberts was his team’s hero, slotting four out of four to consign Kuruman, who could convert only two, to a heartbreaking defeat.
Kimberley’s victory ensures that they will become the fifth team after Maties (WP), Roses United (Boland), Progress (SWD) and Shimlas (Free State) to qualify for the season-ending National Club Championships in Stellenbosch from 17-23 September.
“I will never forget that game as long as I live and I think all the players will feel the same way,” said Kimberley tighthead prop Pieter Streak. “Usually a prop starts asking the referee after the first 10 minutes how much time is left! But when I asked him he said there were only four minutes left. That gives you an idea of how caught up we all were.”
Streak said it was a surreal experience for him and his team-mates to look on as Roberts lined up his kicks. “Jacques kicked with such calmness and he never looked like missing,” he said. “It wasn’t always like that. In his younger days he missed some pressure kicks but on Saturday he put all that behind him.”
Kimberley Police will now focus their attention on the Club Champs, although the team will be hamstrung by a lack of preparation going into the tournament. “Our season has ended but we now have to somehow keep fit for nine weeks,” said Streak. “We have a terrible record at the Club Champs and we want to put that right.
“There’s no point in going through what we’ve gone through, only to fall to pieces at the Club Champs. We are going to have to find some opposition to play against to keep match fit, but we’re all looking forward to it.”
Elsewhere around the country, a number of leagues are too close to call as the race for the final nine automatic Club Champs slots enters the final straight.
Durban Harlequins survived a late onslaught to beat second-placed Durban Collegians 22-19 in the KZN Premier Division, a result that leaves unbeaten national club champions College Rovers with one hand on the Moor Cup trophy, which they have won for the past five years.
Pretoria Harlequins’ 50-16 victory over Pretoria Police sees them move to second place in the Blue Bulls’ Carlton League, just one point behind unbeaten Tukkies.
Roses United and Wesbank remain locked in a titanic battle for Boland Premier League honours, following Wesbank’s 21-18 win over Saldanha that sees the Malmesbury side tied with Roses at the top of the table. Both teams have 49 logs points but Wesbank lie second on points difference.
Things are just as tight in the Border Super League, where only six points separated the top five teams going into last weekend’s encounters, which saw log leaders Winter Rose lose 22-17 to Berlin Tigers, and third-placed Buffalo hammer Cambridge 46-19 to strengthen their title claims.
Sasol Secunda beat Kriel 52-10 in the Mpumalanga Hoëveld-Koolveld league, Klerksdorp hammered Lichtenburg 82-0 to go top of the Leopards’ Neser A, while Witrivier made sure of finishing top of the Lowveld section despite suffering their first defeat of the year, 32-26 away to Malelane.
Progress remain top of the SWD Premier League following a 27-23 win over nearest challengers Barbarians, Springs remain unbeaten in the Valke Peregrine Super League after their 44-12 victory over Vereeniging, and Hamilton moved to third in the Western Province Super League A thanks to a 29-19 win over SK Walmers in another fiercely-contested Green Point derby.