The Griquas' dream run in the Currie Cup came to a painful end in Kimberley – losing 45-30 to the Sharks in an eleven-try spectacle.
The Griquas' dream run in the Currie Cup came to an agonising end in Kimberley when they were defeated 45-30 by the Sharks in a remarkable eleven-try spectacle.
Griquas, after being in the top four for the entire season, drop out at the time it matters most as the Cheetahs edge ahead of them on points difference.
The defending champion Sharks will realise if they are to repeat last year's feat only a much more clinical showing will suffice in the knock-out fixtures, but the quest to win against Griquas, with a bonus point, was ultimately achieved.
The match was played in a competitive spirit by both sides who embraced their respective aims going into the game, both needing tries and plenty of them.
The game started off at a helter-skelter pace and within 25 minutes, the Sharks had the bonus point for four tries sewn up thanks to both patient build-ups as well as devastating attack on the counter.
Griquas managed to gain the first strike with a massive drop-goal from full-back Riaan Viljoen inside his own half, but the Sharks struck back when captain Stefan Terblanche dummied his way over the tryline to set the scoring in motion for his team.
Not before Viljoen was successful with a penalty from the halfway line, taking the score to 7-6 in favour of the Sharks, only for Ruan Pienaar to gather a chip ahead to score beside to the posts, which he dually converted.
The Sharks piled the pressure on and scored another try, when Bok wing JP Pietersen dotted the ball down just before the pigskin went over the dead-ball line.
But Griquas came back when scrum-half Sarel Pretorius broke, passed to Bjorn Basson who in turn off-loaded to Barry Geel. A juggle of the ball later and the centre dotted down for an unconverted try.
However from the kick-off, hooker Bismark du Plessis scored a pushover try for the Sharks' fourth try and their bonus point. The Sharks had achieved their goal, but worryingly the remainder of the first half didn't go to plan as Du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira both had to go off due to rib and shoulder injuries respectively.
With the half almost up, Griquas butchered an absolute gimme of a try with a four-man overlap and the Sharks led 28-11 going into the break. The visitors stamped their authority early in the second half, when replacement hooker Craig Burden barged over for an unconverted try.
But the hosts certainly weren't going to give up and when Geel went over for two more tries and the Griquas – against all odds – were trailing the Sharks by only eight points.
Pretorius then scored his team's fourth try with just over a quarter of the match remaining, and with his team trailing by 10 points, the two log points were within their grasp, one of their goals secured and their tails in the air.
However, number eight Ryan Kankowski managed to score a late try for his team and the Sharks held out against a sustained onslaught from the home side chasing the seven-point margin of victory.
With time up on the clock, the never-say-die Griquas managed to force the ball over the line, but the TMO ruling did not go their way – not that it would have mattered.
Tries: Geel 3, Pretorius
Cons: Olivier 2
Tries: Terblanche, Pienaar, Pietersen, Du Plessis, Burden 2, Kankowski
Cons: Pienaar 5
Griquas: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Jaco Bekker, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Trompie Nontshinga, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (c), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Wesley Wilkins, 5 Jacques Lombaard, 4 Cecil Kemp, 3 Ruaan du Preez, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Albertus Buckle.
Replacements: 16 Dries Kruger, 17 Drew van Coller, 18 Brendon Snyman, 19 Rohan Kitshoff/Heinrich Stride, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 Wilmaure Louw, 22 Gavin Passens.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche (c), 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Juan Hernandez, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andries Strauss, 22 Waylon Murray.
Referee: Mark Lawrence