CHARLES SIWELE

Mopanie won the 2012 Steinhoff TuksRugby House League on Tuesday 11 September, beating Onderstepoort. Both Onderstepoort and Mopanie went into the game reasonably confident of their chances after their impressive showings against their respective semi-final opponents Sonop and Olienhout.

The game kicked off with a number of early big tackles as both sides tried to assert their dominance. However, it was Mopanie that showed more intensity early on at the breakdowns. Their forwards, particularly prop Richard Kotzé and man of the match flank Willie van Heerden, caused Onderstepoort trouble at every ruck. The prop’s effective ball carrying and the flank’s work rate at the breakdown helped maintain a solid base for the Mopanie backs to run from.

By the 20th minute the teams had traded penalties and Mopanie led 6-3. Onderstepoort were visibly determined to overturn the deficit. The Mopanie defence, however, regularly forced turn-overs and errors at breakdowns. The first 30 minutes of the game was littered with unforced errors; knock-ons in particular, and a missed Onderstsepoort kick at goal by star full back Joel Alves brought to an end what was a disappointing first half.

The game resumed with Mopanie on the offensive as they applied themselves more at rucks than they did in the first half. This tactic nearly cost them three points soon after the restart as Onderstepoort missed their first penalty kick of the half. Mopanie launched an eight-phase attack from a scrum as both forwards and backs chipped away at their opponents’ defence. Eventually, Onderstsepoort ran out of defenders and Mopanie moved the ball wide to find space for a try in the corner ten minutes into the half, courtesy of Wynand Bezuidenhout. The Mopanie kicker, however, missed the conversion.

Mopanie maintained their intensity and this led to turn over of possession at a number of rucks. Onderstsepoort, who were pinned in their own half for the majority of the second half, finally got a chance to break out when a poor kick from Mopanie was collected on the 22-metre line and moved from the left side of the field to the right where the ball found wing Kobus Rabe. He managed to get around a number of chasing defenders and gained 15 metres before being taken down by the covering defence. Onderstepoort capitalised on the opportunity and did well to move the ball quickly to stay ahead of the defence. The ball was worked through two more phases before a try was awarded in the left-hand corner. The kick was again unsuccessful and Onderstepoort’s hopes were kept alive, but only just.

In the last few minutes of the game, Onderstepoort gave a last push in a ruck to turn the ball over following a messy scrum. They then worked steadily up the field against a resilient Mopanie defence. A turnover in the dying seconds of the game, gave Mopanie the chance to kick the ball into touch, to seal a close 11-8 victory. After the game, winning captain, Christiaan du Toit praised his team’s sticking resolve in keeping to the game plan, “I think we had a game plan coming into the game, a game plan we’ve worked on all year. In the first half we had some trouble with it. In the second half we came out and worked on applying the game plan again and it paid off.” Disappointed Onderstepoort captain, Schabort Meyer, acknowledged the potential difference made by the kicks his team missed, “It was an amazing game, very fast. We let them get the upper hand at the first phases and we missed some crucial penalties.”

Photo: Marius Veldhuyzen van Zanten

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