19 June 2013
South Africa’s rugby depth was on display at the inaugural IRB Tbilisi Cup in Georgia from 7 to 16 June, when the South Africa President’s XV, made up of players from the first division of the Absa Currie Cup, walked away with the honours.
Up against Georgia, Uruguay and Emerging Ireland, the SA President’s XV did themselves proud. They opened their campaign with a convincing 37-9 win over Uruguay and continued their good work in their second match against the Irish, claiming a hard-fought 19-8 victory.
That left the South African side to take on hosts Georgia in their final game on Sunday, knowing victory would seal the title for them. Overcoming a physical onslaught from the Georgians at the Avchala Rugby Stadium, the President’s XV triumphed 21-16.
Jimmy Stonehouse, the SA President’s XV coach, told the IRB: “We are delighted to get the victory and win the tournament overall. It was a physical battle and I was quite impressed with the performance.
“The tournament has been an excellent developmental tool for our players and will be fantastic for their progression as players.”
In Sunday’s match, flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout’s accurate goal-kicking, well worked tries by Rosco Speckman and Eduan Van Der Walt, and a brave forward effort earned the team their third victory in as many matches.
Bezuidenhout opened the scoring in the second minute with a penalty and backed that up four minutes later with his second to nudge the SA President’s XV into a 6-0 lead.
Georgian wing Beka Tsiklauri hit back with a penalty in the 11th minute to put his team on the scoreboard, and with the hosts’ pack functioning like a well-oiled machine and the SA President’s XV reduced to 14 men when lock Eduan van der Walt was sin-binned, they powered their way over the tryline in the 25th minute from a powerful rolling maul.
Tsiklauri added a second penalty shortly after that to put his team into a 13-6 lead.
Another penalty by the dependable Bezuidenhout and a stunning try by left wing Rosco Speckman, who danced his way to the tryline after receiving the ball in space, handed the visitors a narrow 16-13 lead at the break.
The lead was short-lived as Tsiklauri levelled the scores early in the second half with another penalty.
The SA President’s XV had the last say, however, with Eduan van der Walt scoring the team’s second try midway through the second half. It was enough to clinch victory.
Their win was built upon a strong showing at the breakdowns and putting Georgia under pressure at lineout time. Georgia coach Milton Haig commented to the IRB: “The lineout was a little inaccurate, but you have to give South Africa credit for that too. You can’t win these types of games if you don’t get your set piece right, so we will certainly go back and have a look at that.”
Emerging Ireland finished second after defeating Uruguay 42-33 in their final game. Georgia, 27-3 winners over Uruguay in their second match, placed third.
SAinfo reporter and SA Rugby