Currie Cup

No fairy tale for heartbroken Griquas: 'I think we got stage fright'

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Griquas coach Pieter Bergh during the Currie Cup final (Gallo)
Griquas coach Pieter Bergh during the Currie Cup final (Gallo)
  • Griquas coach Pieter Bergh says the occasion of the Currie Cup final may have been too big for his players. 
  • Griquas lost 26-19 in Kimberley, with the Pumas landing their first ever Currie Cup crown. 
  • Bergh says he is proud of what his young squad has achieved this season. 

If Saturday's Currie Cup final had gone according to script, then Kimberley would be rocking into the early hours of Sunday morning, celebrating Griquas' first title in 52 years.

But sport cares not for such sentiment, and instead, it was the Pumas who left Griqua Park as first-time winners following a 26-19 win that was far more commanding than the scoreline suggests.

For the visitors from Nelspruit, the celebrations following the final whistle provided memories that will last a lifetime.

For coach Pieter Bergh and his Griquas soldiers, they were gut-wrenching.

There were over 11 000 fans crammed into the small, intimate venue on Saturday, and almost all of them had come to watch Griquas win.

Instead, they saw a performance that was lacking in almost every department for the bulk of the contest.

Bergh, still just 37 years old, held his head high after the match and conceded that his charges were simply outplayed.

"I have to congratulate Jimmy [Stonehouse, Pumas coach] and the Pumas. We were never in the game, and they dominated us from the beginning," said Bergh.

"To be honest, I thought we had stage fright. We didn't pitch up in that first half, and there were too many mistakes.

"The plan was to not give them lineouts and to kick contestables but we didn't kick one contestable the whole game. We didn't execute our plan.

"There were so many things. They were more physical than us, their defence was better, their set-piece was better, and, in all the areas of the game, we were second best.

"If you don't pitch up, then you will be second best."

READ | Emotional Stonehouse celebrates history with champion Pumas: 'I don't have words, I just love this team' 

The hype surrounding Griquas in the week leading up to the match was unlike anything they had experienced all season, and with so much youth in their ranks, it is possible that they were somewhat overwhelmed by the sense of occasion.

"Maybe with this young squad, this week was too emotional. It was a huge home game, there was a lot of chat of 1970 [the last time Griquas won the Currie Cup]," said Bergh.

"It looked like there was only one team who wanted to win, because we just weren't there. Even at half-time, the look I got on the players' faces was like they still had stage fright, even at half-time.

"The whole season we've played our best rugby when we're behind, and when we were far behind, we started playing, but by then it was too late.

"There are so many things you can say went wrong, but everything went wrong."

Bergh remains proud of what his side has achieved this season, and he voiced his gratitude to the supporters.

"For the people of Kimberley, this was wonderful, and I must thank them," he said.

"The whole week, we got so much support, and it was just wonderful. Hopefully, we can give them that again in the near future, not in another 52 years."

"I think we're building something special here."

Bergh knows that many of his players will move on to more lucrative deals at more high-profile unions, but he encourages that. They were still part of the Griquas class of 2022 that came so very close.

"I'm so proud of the players. When we played the Cheetahs in the first match of the Currie Cup, we had one warm-up game," said Bergh.

"I think there were 10 or 11 guys making their debut in that game. We have a lot of young guys, and I'm very proud of how we've grown as a team. Boys became men this year.

"They've shown what can be done when people come together and work toward the same goal.

"The sky is the limit for them. There are a lot of good players who will leave us and become top United Rugby Championship players, and hopefully, some of them can become Springboks.

"There are good teams that have lost finals and very good players that have lost finals. Hopefully, we will learn from this and, next time, be better than we were tonight."

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