The SWD Eagles proved to be the unluckiest team in the competition, coming within one log point of the play-offs after a 45-11 victory over the Valke in George. The Eagles did everything that was required of them but, like many observers, perhaps could not have foreseen that the Griffons would pick up a full house away from home against the high-flying Pumas.
The SWD Eagles piled on the pressure in the second half to beat the Valke 45-11 (halftime 12-6) in their Absa Currie Cup First Division match at Outeniqua Park in George on Saturday.
The bonus-point win takes the Eagles to 43 log points and the men from the South-Western Districts will now face an anxious wait to see whether the Griffons or Leopards can earn a point from their matches tonight to deny them a semifinal place.
The weighty Valke pack caused the Eagles some problems in the first half and flyhalf Karlo Aspeling kicked two penalties in the first quarter to give the Gautengers a 6-0 lead.
The Eagles made life difficult for themselves with sloppy handling and trying to run ball off the back foot and they needed two dodgy yellow cards to the Valke before they could take the lead.
Flanks Wesley Kotze (high tackle) and Frederick Eksteen (alleged trip) were sent to the sin bin in the 27th and 41st minutes and the Eagles responded immediately with tries on both occasions.
In the 28th minute, the home side eventually got the ball wide from a series of rucks and quick hands by flyhalf Burton Francis sent fullback Elric van Vuuren over for the try.
With George delivering her famous cold-and-wet weather, handling and expansive play were tough and the Eagles began using the rolling maul to good effect. Just before halftime, flank Dumisane Meslane, who played with great energy throughout, burst from a maul and darted down on the blindside for the second try, which Van Vuuren converted.
Van Vuuren has wonderful hands as well as an accurate boot and his nifty back-flip sent Meslane racing clear two minutes after the break, the loose forward then showing good vision to draw three defenders and pass back inside for the fullback to score.
Van Vuuren’s second conversion increased the lead to 19-6 and that became 26-6 in the 49th minute with the bonus-point try by wing Alshaun Bock.
Rugby can be a tough mistress and she turned ugly on Valke flyhalf Karlo Aspeling, who had enjoyed a good first half. First he missed a penalty kick to touch and then, when he received the ball back from the Eagles, he tried a chip kick which was gathered by Bock.
The well-travelled 30-year-old wing swerved away from Aspeling and then burst down the right touchline to score, Van Vuuren converting.
The Valke were now chasing the game and captain and lock Johan de Bruin evaded the blindside defence to score from a ruck in the 54th minute, following on the good work of Eksteen and centre Hendrik Meyer in creating front-foot ball.
But the Eagles broke free again in the final quarter and soared to a strong finish with three more tries.
Captain and eighthman Wilhelm Koch took a tap penalty and darted over from a scrum close to the line, before replacement scrumhalf Mzo Dyanti broke blind and put a grubber through. Van Vuuren’s kick infield was a vital touch and it allowed wing Ghafoer Luckan to gather and speed over for the try.
Replacement flank Shaun Raubenheimer completed the scoring as he powered down the blindside following a strong drive by replacement hooker Sidney Tobias.
SWD Eagles – Tries: Elric van Vuuren (2), Dumisane Meslane, Alshaun Bock, Wilhelm Koch, Ghafoer Luckan, Shaun Raubenheimer. Conversions: Van Vuuren (5).
Valke – Try: Johan de Bruin. Penalties: Karlo Aspeling (2).