Western Province managed to keep their slim hopes of a Currie Cup semifinal alive after a convincing 35-17 victory over the Free state Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that the visitors outplayed the Cheetahs in the second half, and a late interception from Springbok centre Jean de Villiers sealed a bonus-point win for Province.
What a freak game! For 18 minutes Western Province did nothing but defend, which means the Cheetahs did nothing but attack and the only people to score in that time were Western Province.
Never was it truer that there are two aspects to rugby – attack and defence. Win the defence and you are winning half the match. In fact for Western Province defence was the winning of the match as the Cheetahs hurled themselves at them.
The Western Province were penalised seven times in those 18 minutes. The Cheetahs had five-metre line-outs, and still the Western Province defended. Western Province had a man sent off and still 14 men defended – the stuff of Horatius of all when three stood against the might of Lars Porsina in defence of old Rome. The Cheetahs tapped and charged and then men from the south hurled them back. They had mauls and they had scrums, and still they could not pass. No passeron, the southern men cried. They will not pass. Desperate Western Province knocked on but still they defended. Their seven-man scrum was destroyed and still they lifted their heads to defend again – and then it all broke. And when it broke it was the defenders who found the strength and energy to rejoice in the final score of the match.
Western Province had had a scrum on their left and the Cheetahs rushed a wheel around. They now had a scrum on the far right. They decided passing might be more profitable than bashing and Neil Powell fed Tewis de Bruyn who threw a long, fast pass towards Meyer Bosman. It did not reach Bosman for Jean de Villiers stepped forward and grabbed the ball to run an easy, exultant 90 metres down the middle of the field, an increasingly leisurely run which allowed the odd regal wave to the many fans on his way to the posts. Peter Grant converted and that made the score 35-17 – victory for Western Province and a bonus point. The Currie Cup is no longer just an idle dream.
35-17. It sounds comfortable. It was not comfortable. It was there for tough men with hard minds and heroic determination. It was a match that had its cantankerous moment as both teams new the enormity of defeat.
The unpleasant aspect of the game on a perfect afternoon of Bloemfontein spring was the red card for Schalk Burger. Earlier in the match he had received a yellow card for pulling Barend Pieterse down in the line-out by yanking his collar. Pieterse fell hard. The second yellow card which equalled a red card was for a high tackle complete with swinging arm on Juan Smith which laid the noble flank out. The second tackle could well have earned a red card in its own right.
Otherwise it was a gripping match of ebb and flow.
Silliness gave the Cheetahs their first try. The Cheetahs were on attack inside the Western Province 22 when Province won a turnover. The ball went to Gcobani Bobo who under pressure tried a pass out of the back of his right hand to the right. Passing to the right is not his greatest skill but this effort at sleight of hand was a great failure. The Cheetahs picked up the ball and Bosman sent Wilton Pietersen over in the left corner. Bosman converted brilliantly. 7-0 after 7 minutes.
But from the kick-off Juan Smith was penalised and Grant had an easy kick to make it 7-3 and then another easy kick when Hendro Scholtz was penalised at a tackle. 7-6 after 12 minutes.
At this stage Western Province were the ones doing the attacking and going through the phases and it was the Cheetahs defence which was adamantine. The crack that came was a simple one.
The Cheetahs won a scrum and Powell passed a long and accurate pass back to Bevin Fortuin in his in-goal. Ricky Januarie scurried after the ball. Fortuin kicked and Januarie was there to charge it down. The ball, perhaps in admiration, then presented itself to Januarie’s arms for a try. Grant converted. 13-7 to Western Province after 19 minutes.
Andries Bekker, the tallest man in Bloemfontein, was penalised for tackling high and Bosman goaled. 13-10 but then Burger was sent to the sin bin.
The Cheetahs were close to scoring when Adriaan Strauss intercepted and raced down the left. The Cheetahs went far right and Pietersen beat three defenders to score only to be brought back for a forward pass.
Januarie kicked one of his many box kicks and Duane Vermeulen started a counter-attack on the right. It went left where Robert Ebersohn skipped inside Bobo and gave to Bosman who fed Fabian Juries of Sevens fame. The little man sped down the touch-line, leaving Luke Watson futilely groping air. Round Juries went for a try at the posts. 17-13 to the Cheetahs after 38 minutes.
But Western Province were not yet done. Adriaan Fondse won a turnover and Western Province went left. Sireli Naqelevuki made the running and gave to Joe Pietersen who was on for bleeding Conrad Jantjes, and the blond utility back sped away to score from a move that had taken over 50 metres. Grant’s conversion bounced out off the upright but at half-time Western Province led 18-17.
There was a magic moment early in the second half when Western Province hands let them down and suddenly Juries was speeding away. Tonderai Chavhanga, who had a great game on defence, came across in cover but Juries turned inside of him but there was Januarie to leap on his back and ride him to ground.
Western Province threw in at a line-out. David de Villiers got up and knocked it back for the Cheetahs. The ball bounced and Schalk Brits pounced. He grabbed the ball and was off, passing inside to Bekker who in a couple of long strides was over for a try which took the score to 25-17 with 30 minutes to play.
Chavhanga kicked an up-and-under and magnificently won the aerial battle for the ball. He gave to Januarie who gave to François Louw who was stopped just short of the line by Kabamba Floors of the lurid hairdo. The Cheetahs were penalised and Grant lobbed the easy kick over. 28-17.
That is how the score stayed during the dramatic, agonising last 18 minutes of the match, until De Villiers intercepted and sealed the match.
The last time the Cheetahs lost a Currie Cup match at home was on 5 August 2006.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Pietersen, Juries
Cons: Bosman 2
For Western Province:
Tries: Januarie, Pietersen, Bekker, De Villiers
Con: Grant 3
Pens: Grant 3
Yellow card: Schalk Burger (WP, 26 – Dangerous play)
Red card: Schalk Burger (second yellow) (WP, 69 – Dangerous tackle)
Cheetahs: 15 Bevin Fortuin, 14 Wilton Pietersen, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Fabian Juries, 10 Tewis de Bruyn, 9 Neil Powell, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Smith (captain), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 David de Villiers, 3 Kobus Calldo, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Phillip Lemmer, 18 Nico Breedt, 19 Heinrich Brüssow, 20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 21 JW Jonker, 22 Kabamba Floors.
Western Province: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 AJ Venter, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Wylie Human