The Windhoek Draught Welwitschias completed their Mzansi Challenge on a high note with a resounding 47-29 victory against Eastern Province at the Hage Geingob Stadium on Saturday.
Despite once again starting on the back foot after conceding an early try, the Welwitschias showed great resolve to wrestle control of the match and post an impressive win.
Left wing JC Greyling collected his second man of the match award in the series after scoring four tries, but flyhalf Danco Burger also had great match, scoring a try and six conversions for a personal tally of 17 points.
The visitors took an early lead when they caught the Welwitschias’ defence napping as right wing Rodney Damons followed up a kick ahead to dot down in the corner and with left wing Jayden Bantom adding a great conversion from touch they went 7-0 ahead after only two minutes.
The Welwitschias soon struck back when Greyling intercepted the ball deep in his own half to race away for a 70m try, and with Burger adding the conversion they went 7-7 level.
The Welwitschias took the lead for the first time when right wing Warren Ludwig broke away down the wing to send scrumhalf AJ Kearns over unopposed, but the visitors once again struck back with a Bantom intercept try to draw level at 14-14.
The match continued to ebb and flow as the Welwitschias went 19-14 ahead after Greyling’s second try – a great team effort with Gershwin Mouton and Max Katjijeko prominent in the buildup, but EP once again struck back with a converted try by flyhalf Mbembe Payi to take a 21-19 lead after half an hour.
That was the last time they led, though, as the Welwitschias gradually started to take control.
They regained the lead at 26-21 when centre PJ Walters crashed over from a second phase attack, while a great break by hooker Wicus Jacobs led to Greyling’s third try, to put the Welwitschias 33-21 ahead at the haltime break.
EP came back with a vengeance after the break, but after repeated attacks on the Welwitschias’ tryline were repelled, they had to settle for a penalty.
Concerted pressure by the Welwitschias led to Greyling’s fourth try as replacement scrumhalf Jacques Theron charged down a kick which Greyling dotted down, and with Burger adding a great convesion from the touch line the Welwitschias were cruising with a 40-24 lead.
EP struck back with a try by eighthman Athenkosi Manentsa, but the Welwitschias had the final say when Burger crashed over for a converted try after repeated assaults on EP’s line.
The result saw the Welwitschias finishing their Mzansi Challenge campaign in seventh position on the log on 17 points, while South Western Districts Eagles finished on top of the log on 40 points.
The Valke and the Boland Cavaliers finished joint second on 36 points each after they both posted away victories in their final matches on Saturday, with the Valke beating the Leopards 43-35 at Potchefstroom, while the Cavaliers thumped the Border Bulldogs 68-19 at Mdantsane.
Welwitschias captain Prince! Gaoseb said they backed themselves to win the match.
“We started off a bit on the backfoot, but the boys recovered well and we got the win so I’m proud of the boys for executing the game plan,” he said.
“Most of the games that we lost were quite close so they were games that we could have won, so we just said that we owe this last win to ourselves, and the boys just pitched up today. But credit to EP as well, the boys showed up today and there was good rugby played on the day,” he added.
Gaoseb said the Mzansi Challenge was great preparation for Namibia’s international matches lying ahead.
“The series helped us to build some depth for the world cup and it was a great challenge and a great experience. The boys learnt a lot from the competition and hopefully we will participate again next year. If we do I think we are going to prepare earlier to be in better shape and then we could challenge for the title,” he said.