The spotlight may be on the Currie Cup Final at Newlands on Saturday, but 24 hours earlier two teams will be in a desperate duel for Premier Division status.
By Jan de Koning
At the Mbombela Stadium, in Nelspruit, on Friday the Pumas and Griquas will go head-to-head in the return match of their two-game promotion relegation series.
Griquas, courtesy of their two-point win in Kimberley last week require just two points – via a win, draw or two bonus points – to retain their Currie Cup status.
The Pumas must win by at least three points and prevent Griquas from getting more than one bonus point.
However, should the teams be level on log points (Griquas have four for the win and the Pumas one bonus point), then net points difference (points for and points against) come into play.
Should the teams still be equal, the team who scores the most tries in the two matches will be promoted. Should it still be equal, the status quo remains.
Despite having a slight edge, Griquas coach Pote Human – who will guide the team in his last match before heading to Pretoria for his next assignment – said the ‘desperation’ in the camp has not diminished at all.
“Nothing has changed,” Human told this website, adding: “We simply must win – that is the only [acceptable] permutation for us.”
He dismissed the suggestion that it is an option to play for two points or bonus points.
“If we lose we are out of the Premier Division and we are all aware of that – for us it is all or nothing.”
Having lost their unbeaten run last week, after becoming First Division champions a week earlier, Pumas mentor Jimmy Stonehouse said his team didn’t play particularly well in Kimberley – despite claiming a 13-0 lead and hanging on to a 19-14 advantage going into injury time in Kimberley.
“If you analyse the game and see the opportunities they had and the amount of possession they had – overall our performance wasn’t that great, even though we defended very well,” Stonehouse told this website.
The Pumas mentor felt a couple of critical calls by the match officials turned the tide in the game.
“The scrum in the second half, where we demolished them and then we were penalised, made a huge difference,” he said, adding that they also missed two vital line-outs that allowed Griquas back in the game.
However, what concerned him was that Griquas loose forward Marnus Schoeman, who was dropped to the bench for the return match, was given a lot of leeway by match officials.
Despite Schoeman conceded six penalties, it was Pumas lock Lubabalo Mtyanda that was yellow carded, prompting Stonehouse to say: “I’m not sure how that stacked up – that [the yellow card late in the game] certainly helped them.”
And discipline will again be a factor in Nelspruit on Friday.
“The team conceding the fewest penalties will certainly reap the rewards,” the Pumas mentor said, adding: “Defence is also vitally important. Just look at the try Willie le Roux created – JC Ross, RW Kember, JW Bell and Coenie van Wyk missed tackles.
“At this level you can’t afford to miss that many tackles.”
The Griquas coach, Human, said that while they expected the Pumas would be competitive, he felt they men from Nelspruit would lift the intensity even more so on their home ground this week.
“There is no doubt it will be very physical and they will raise the bar,” Human said, adding: “We realise we are in for a tough game.
“They scrummed very well, their mauling was good and their defence was outstanding.”
Griquas won 21-19, Kimberley
Prediction: It will be an emotional farewell for Griquas coach Pote Human, who will move on to coach the University of Pretoria next year. However, the Pumas have shown all season that there is a deep desire to return to the Premier Division and we feel an upset is on the cards – a Pumas win – between five and 10 points.
Pumas: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Bell, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosco Speck man, 10 JC Roos, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 RW Kember, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Corne Steenkamp (captain), 5 Rudi Matthee, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 De-Jay Terblanche, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 Vincent Koch.
Replacements: 16 Frank Herne, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Drew van Coller/Stephan Kotze, 19 Eduan Van Der Walt, 20, Uzair Cassiem, 21 Dewald Pretorius, 22 Jerome Pretorius.
Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Jean Stemmet, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Carel Greeff, 7 Burger Schoeman, 6 RJ Liebenberg, 5 Patrick O’Brien, 4 Rynhardt Landman, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Janro van Niekerk, 18 Nick Schonert, 19 Marnus Schoeman, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 JP Nel, 22 Nico Scheepers.
Date: Friday, October 25
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Expected weather: Pleasant and warm. High of 27°C and a low of 15°C
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Sieg van Staden, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Johan Greeff
By Jan de Koning