WP beat Cheetahs in opener
Western Province shook off a slow start to run out convincing 25-11 (halftime 16-8) winners over the Free State Cheetahs in their opening Currie Cup match of the season played in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The victory was assured thanks to the unerring boot of flyhalf Willem de Waal, who almost singlehandedly carried his team by striking six penalties and a conversion for a personal haul of 20 points.
The visitors were otherwise as rusty as their hosts, and in this typical season-opener coach Allister Coetzee could be thankful that in De Waal he had a match-winner that could take such a scrappy match by the scruff of the neck.
Both sides scored a try apiece but De Waal easily won his kicking duel against opposite number Louis Strydom to give his side four valuable points on the road.
The Cheetahs opened the scoring in the 12th minute through a penalty by Strydom, who was playing in his 100th match.
De Waal equalised five minutes later with a monster 50-metre penalty before Cheetahs scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn scored the opening try of the match on the half hour.
It started in the home side's half with a speculative chip-and-chase by fullback Hennie Daniller, who regathered before popping to the scrumhalf.
At this stage WP had hardly been in the Free State 22, they had no possession to speak of, and they had made all the tackles.
But De Waal not only kept his team in the hunt but gave them an unlikely 9-8 lead after 37 minutes with two further penalties.
The visitors then struck a decisive blow on the stroke of half time when lock Adriaan Fondse crashed over under the sticks for De Waal to convert, which gave WP an eight-point lead.
De Waal then extended the gap to 14 points within minutes of the restart with his fourth and fifth penalties.
WP's unchecked accumulation of 19 points was eventually halted when Strydom kicked a penalty on the hour to make it 22-11.
But the Cheetahs, in their haste to close the gap further, spurned two kickable penalties in favour of kicking for the corners, without reward, when Strydom's accurate boot might have drawn them closer.
WP, however, weathered the storm and finished the stronger of the sides, De Waal kicking his sixth penalty in the dying minutes to ensure a solid start for the Cape side in this year's competition.
“Willem is incredibly reliable and is our general at the back,” said WP captain Anton van Zyl. “But I don't want to single out any individual. I thought every player did his bit today.”
Free State 11 – Try: Tewis de Bruyn. Penalties: Louis Strydom (2).
WP 22 – Try: Adriaan Fondse. Conversion: Willem de Waal. Penalties: De Waal (6).