In the absence of a clear knock-out blow, Western Province’s industry in the first three-quarters of this match yesterday earned them victory against a plucky but limited Blue Bulls side.
Liam Del Carme reports for the Sunday Times that this was an absorbing but lamentably error-strewn match contested at close quarters. That they were able to win without bringing their A-game won’t trouble WP one bit.
It was left to Willem de Waal to make the difference with five penalties but it could have been different had his opposite number, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, converted all his kicks.
What will please WP is that they held on for the victory.
The match was contested in the trenches from the opening whistle and only WP displayed the appetite and capacity to take their game outside the crowded mess.
Though their performance in the primary phases was exemplary, WP could not get their game going beyond the second and third phases. And an obdurate Bulls defence prevented them from dazzling in the second half as they did against Griquas last week.
Dewald Potgieter, Gerrit-Jan van Veldze and the rest of the Bulls deserve kudos for keeping their defensive shape in the face of the onslaught. They never looked like winning, but they never looked entirely out of it either.
The Bulls’ “lets hang in there” approach seemed to gain traction as the match wore on and despite the paucity of good possession, they were able to stay in a contest in which lesser teams would have capitulated.
Apart from the Bulls’ bone-rattling defence, flyhalf Potgieter’s boot also kept them going in the right direction, albeit in small steps.
As a spectacle, the match never got off the ground. It was a dowdy affair and interest on the stands was maintained largely by the intensity of the contest.
Aided by a stiff breeze from the south-east, WP were in the ascendancy in just about every aspect of the game in the first half, although their lineout on their own feeds again didn’t quite measure up.
At the breakdowns they routinely arrived with more numbers, and perhaps more damningly for the Bulls, more intent.
They were also superior at scrum time, when the Bulls creaked, crabbed and collapsed in more or less that order.
With so much go-forward ball, Duane Vermeulen made his trademark bursts at the heart of the defence but none the Bulls weren’t able to counter.
WP had the territorial advantage but the Bulls’ defence held defiantly in the first 20 minutes. Stefan Watermeyer tackled like a man possessed in midfield, John Mametsa timeously came off his defensive line to snuff out a certain try, Gerhard van den Heever’s high tackle (for which he was sin-binned) possibly prevented another, and Zane Kirchner’s tackle on Paul Bosch also deprived WP of a five-pointer.
But for all their dominance, WP simply could not find a way through.
Not that the Bulls made too many inroads. Apart from a Potgieter penalty in the 18th minute, the only other potential points-scoring opportunity was a long shot. Potgieter’s drop-goal attempt from just inside his half with two minutes remaining before the break was as wayward as it was desperate.
The Bulls played with similar determination in the second but simply lacked the punch to knock WP off their perch.
After the game WP coach Allister Coetzee praised his side’s tenacity and said: “In the past we lost close encounters. This is a young, maturing side. This was as tough a Currie Cup match as you could have hoped for.”Tweet