No fairy tale for heartbroken Griquas: ‘I think we have stage fright’

Griquas coach Pieter Bergh at the Currie Cup final (Gallo)

Griquas coach Pieter Bergh at the Currie Cup final (Gallo)

  • Griquas coach Pieter Bergh says the Currie Cup final may have been too big for his players.
  • Griquas lost 26-19 in Kimberley while the Pumas clinched their first-ever Currie Cup crown.
  • Bergh says he is proud of what his young side has achieved this season.

If Saturday’s Currie Cup final had gone according to plan, Kimberley would be rocking into the wee hours of Sunday and celebrating Griquas’ first title in 52 years.

But the sport doesn’t care for such moods and instead it was the Pumas who left Griqua Park as first-time winners after a 26-19 win was far more comfortable than the score line would suggest.

For the visitors from Nelspruit, the celebrations after the final whistle were unforgettable memories.

It was torture for coach Pieter Bergh and his Griquas soldiers.

On Saturday, over 11,000 fans were crammed into the small, intimate venue, and almost everyone came to see Griquas win.

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

Bergh, just 37, held his head up after the game and conceded his charges were simply outplayed.

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

“To be honest, I thought we had stage fright. We didn’t play in the first half and there were too many mistakes.

“The plan was not to give them lanes and kick contestables, but we didn’t kick a contestable the entire game. We didn’t carry out our plan.

“There were so many things. They were more physical than us, their defense was better, their set pieces were better and we were second best in all areas of the game.

“If you don’t get up, you’re second best.”

READ | Emotional Stonehouse celebrates history with Champion Pumas: “I’m at a loss for words, I just love this team”

The hype around Griquas the week before the game was unlike anything they had experienced all season and with so much youth in their ranks it’s possible they were a little overwhelmed by the occasion.

“Maybe this week was too emotional with this young team. It was a huge home game, there was a lot of talk about 1970 [the last time Griquas won the Currie Cup]’ Bergh said.

“It looked like only one team wanted to win because we just weren’t there. Even at half-time I could see on the faces of the players that they still had stage fright at half-time.

“All season we played our best rugby when we were behind and when we were far behind we started playing but by then it was too late.

“There are so many things that can be said to have gone wrong, but everything went wrong.”

Bergh remains proud of what his side has achieved this season and thanked the fans.

“It was wonderful for the people of Kimberley and I have to thank them,” he said.

“We’ve had so much support throughout the week and it’s been wonderful. Hopefully we can give that back to them in the near future, not another 52 years.”

“I think we’re building something special here.”

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

“I’m so proud of the players. When we played the Cheetahs in the first game of the Currie Cup, we had a warm-up game,” Bergh said.

“I think there were 10 or 11 guys who made their debut in that game. We have a lot of youngsters and I’m very proud of how we’ve grown as a team. Boys became men this year.”

“You have shown what can be achieved when people come together and work towards the same goal.

“The sky is the limit for them. There are many good players who will leave us and become top players in the United Rugby Championship and hopefully some of them can become springboks.

“There are good teams who have lost finals and very good players who have lost finals. Hopefully we can learn from that and do better next time than tonight.”

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