Currie Cup
Sharks make winning start against Griquas
August 10, 2014

Tera Mtembu made a winning debut Saturday as the first black captain of the Sharks when they defeated 14-man Griquas 31-24 in a South African Currie Cup opener.

The loose forward succeeded hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who will be unavailable for much of the oldest inter-provincial rugby competition due to national team call-ups.

Mtembu is the 72nd skipper of the Durban team, who are defending a title won last year by shocking Western Province 33-19 in Cape Town. He hailed Sharks chief executive and former Springboks skipper John Smit and director of rugby and ex-South Africa coach Jake White for giving him a chance to create history.

"I thank John and Jake and the rest of the coaching staff for believing in me and affording me this opportunity," said the 23-year-old East London-born forward.

Players from the white minority still dominate Currie Cup teams 20 years after the collapse of apartheid and the latest 30-man Springboks squad includes only seven blacks.

Perennial strugglers Griquas were relegated from the Currie Cup last season only to earn a reprieve by winning a qualifying league when the competition was increased to eight teams. After leading through a Nico Scheepers penalty, the Kimberley team were reduced to 14 men on seven minutes as new centre Jonathan Francke was red-carded for a dangerous tackle. The Sharks built a 28-10 lead by the hour on a bone-hard GWK Stadium pitch in the northern Cape city, but a stirring Griquas comeback shook the title-holders.

Loose forward Carel Greeff barged over in one corner and substitute back Ederies Arendse stole the ball from Sharks full-back SP Marais to dot down on the other side. Scheepers succeeded with both touchline conversions to leave just four points between the sides entering stoppage time. But Griquas were penalised soon after securing possession from the kick-off and 21-point Sharks fly-half Fred Zeilinga closed the scoring with his fourth penalty.

Promoted Mpumalanga Pumas edged Free State Cheetahs 28-21 at Mbombela Stadium in north-eastern city Nelspruit to share the Section Y lead with the Sharks on four points. The Section X games were not as close with Golden Lions romping to a 41-13 Highveld derby triumph over Blue Bulls at Ellis Park in chilly Johannesburg.

Western Province overcame three yellow cards to thump Eastern Province Kings 35-16 in a Cape derby at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

Both winning sides left it late to secure four-try bonus points, though, with Lions flank Warwick Tecklenburg and Province full-back Cheslin Kolbe dotting down in the final minute.


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