Leighton Eksteen scored 27 points to help the SWD Eagles defy the odds and book their place in the Absa Currie Cup First Division final with a 47-40 (halftime 28-25) victory over the Down Touch Griffons in the semifinal played at the HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in Welkom on Saturday.
Eksteen’s contribution came through a try, three conversions and six penalties as the fullback consolidated his position as the season’s second highest point scorer.
The visitors, who ended third on the log, opened up a 12-0 lead within the first six minutes through tries by Eksteen and flanker Wayne Khan. Both sides traded a few penalties before the Griffons landed their first try through flanker Martin Sithole, which right wing Nico Scheepers converted to bring the home side to within two points halfway through the first half.
The Eagles extended their lead to seven points when winger Carlo Radebe scored in the corner but the home side retaliated immediately to level the scores fullback Wayne Pienaar went over for a converted try. Such was the nature of the ping-pong half that the Eagles regained the lead six minutes later when flyhalf Martin du Toit dashed over the line.
Prop Daniel van der Merwe rumbled his way over the three minutes later for an unconverted try to level the scores yet again but Eksteen landed a penalty on the stroke of halftime to send the players into the changerooms with the visitors holding a slender three-point advantage.
The Griffons were first out of the blocks in the second stanza with a try five minutes after the restart through flyhalf Franna du Toit as the hosts grabbed the lead for the first time. Replacement loose forward Andisa Ntsila grabbed his try shortly before the midway mark of the second half, which Eksteen converted after slotting a penalty earlier to give the visitors a handy eight-point lead.
Scheepers reduced the deficit to five points before the Griffons discipline became an issue as Eksteen landed three penalties to put the game beyond doubt with a 14-point lead and only five minutes left on the clock. The hosts managed a consolation try through substitute scrumhalf Wilmar Abrahams.
The Eagles will now need to find a way to do something that no other team has managed to do in 11 attempts this season, and that is to beat the Leopards.
Down Touch Griffons – Tries: Daniel van der Merwe, Franna du Toit, Martin Sithole, Willmar Groenewald, Willmar Groenewald; Conversions: Nico Scheepers (3); Penalties: Scheepers (3).
SWD Eagles – Tries: Andisa Ntsila, Carlo Radebe, Leighton Eksteen, Martin du Toit, Wayne Khan; Conversions: Eksteen (2); Penalties: Eksteen (6).