WP second-half avalanche buries Griquas
Western Province strengthened their already strong hold on the top position on the Absa Currie Cup log with an emphatic 50-3 win over Griquas at Hoffe Park in Kimberley on Saturday.
The trend in the past few years has been for WP and Griquas to be involved in close tussles in Kimberley. Last year Griquas won by one point, and the previous year it was the same margin, while in 2007 and 2006 WP won but there was not more than five points in either game.
It looked in the first half that this one might be similar, with both defensive systems dominating, but it transpired that Province were just playing to a master plan that first subdued and strangled Griquas before burying the hosts under a six-try avalanche in the second half. The half-time score was 12-3, so WP scored 38 unanswered points in the second half.
Griquas were hoping to go through the home games unbeaten, so as skipper Naas Olivier said in the post-match interviews, this result will be a massive wake-up call for them. At the same time it was a loud warning to WP’s future opponents -- as Olivier said, his old team is going to be mightily difficult to beat this season.
This was supposed to be WP’s big test of a hitherto unbeaten season, and for the first 40 minutes it was as the hosts tore into their tackles with great ferocity and commitment. Had Griquas taken all their first-half opportunities WP might have been under pressure, but hasn’t that been the story of the year for the teams that have floundered against the great defence of the Cape’s premier side?
Griquas should perhaps kick themselves for not using their opportunities better, and there were four attempted drop-goals from Riaan Viljoen that did not find target. Yet you did always have the impression WP had everything well in hand and their attention to the basics was highly efficient.
WP enjoyed an advantage in the battle possession throughout the match and that was effectively what set them up on their drive for victory. Their close driving and protection of the ball in a first half where Griquas did peg them back in their own territory by winning the kicking game when the wind was at their backs would have had the effect of sapping the Griquas energy.
WP just made sure they stuck to the basics and slowed the game down whenever they could, a policy that WP and the Stormers have realised is crucial if you want to be competitive when playing at altitude.
Province, who shaded the battle for possession throughout as the pack swarmed over the ball like a blanket, were always the more composed of the two teams. When they did get the opportunity to apply pressure, they forced the penalties that enabled Willem de Waal to give them their nine point half-time buffer.
Anton van Zyl’s men were not helped by the referee’s dubious decision to yellow card Duane Vermeulen for a dangerous tackle that at best warranted a penalty. WP did well to survive the 10 minutes that Vermeulen was off without sustaining any major damage and by the time half time arrived it was clear that the plan was working perfectly.
Bjorn Basson was also carded for taking out De Waal when he was still airborne 10 minutes before half time, but this card was warranted.
Juan de Jongh was the star for Province and the centre underlined his credentials for a call-up to the national team for what would be his first Tri-Nations start against the All Blacks in two weeks' time. De Jongh was just denied by an excellent Riaan Viljoen cover tackle on the right corner flag in the first half, but he was a constant thorn to the Griquas defenders and it seemed only a matter of time before he would score.
When he did it was seven minutes in the second period, with Francois Louw and the equally impressive Paul Bosch both featuring in the multi-phase movement that eventually saw De Jongh over as the ball was spun left from a recycle metres from the Griquas line.
The home team were not quite done yet, and they launched a prolonged period of pressure. However as they bashed towards the WP line they were turned over, and from the turn-over WP sparked a try-scoring movement to rival the one that had foreign commentators so impressed when the Stormers beat the Chiefs in Hamilton earlier this year.
Frikkie Welsh and Conrad Jantjes were two of the players who figured prominently initially, but it was the way that WP kept the ball alive and the movement going that was so outstanding. Hooker Deon Fourie featured twice once it had got beyond the halfway line, the second time being when he took the pop from Vermeulen to go in for the score.
Soon after that Jantjes dispelled any theories that he may lack pace with two metal pins in his leg as legacy of the bad leg break he suffered last year as he ran through half the Griquas side to score the third try. Then, a few minutes later Gio Aplon dotted down near the corner flag off a move started by a lineout drive and it was clear Griquas had lost their appetite and were a well beaten team.
WP showed off their impressive depth by giving youngsters such as Nick Koster and Conrad Hoffmann a run, and they all made full use of their opportunities.
Griquas: Penalty: Naas Olivier.
WP: Tries: Juan de Jongh, Deon Fourie, Conrad Jantjies, Gio
Aplon, Pieter Louw, Lionel Cronjé. Conversions: Willem de Waal (3),
Penalties: De Waal (4).