WP sweep to home semi
Western Province were seldom troubled as they made sure of a home Absa Currie Cup semifinal with an emphatic 33-21 win over the Sharks in the final league match at Newlands on Saturday evening.
There were three tries from each side and in the end it was the boot of WP flyhalf Willem de Waal that separated the two teams with four penalties – but that does not tell the full story, for this was a match that WP dominated to such an extent they could easily have won by 30.
Indeed, in some ways it was similar to the Super 14 match in Durban between these sides in May, where on that occasion it was the Sharks who won by a much smaller margin on the scoreboard than should have been warranted by their dominance on the field of play.
WP took the lead through a Willem de Waal penalty, and it was in the first five minutes that they sent out the message that the WP fans in the 45 000 crowd would have wanted – they showed that this was a game for which they had pitched, unlike that aforementioned Super 14 game at Absa Stadium.
GOOD FRONT-ROW PERFORMANCE
The WP lift in physical intensity in comparison with their last few meetings with the Sharks was considerable, as was their improvement in the scrum. In both their previous competition games the Cape team had come off second best in the set-phases this season, but not this time as the young WP front-row stood up well to their highly rated Sharks opponents.
With WP looking sharp and fronting the Sharks physically, the visitors, who were already assured of top spot on the log, spat the dummy quite badly in that they produced an error-rate that their coach John Plumtree will surely consider unacceptable a week out from their big semifinal against the Blue Bulls.
Yes, that is the way it has turned out – the Bulls will travel to Durban next week to play the Sharks and WP will host the Cheetahs in Cape Town in the other semifinal. The Sharks wanted to avoid the Bulls, but the way WP played on Saturday, you wouldn’t have bet too much against them had it been they who were travelling to Durban next Saturday.
In a nutshell, while WP frequently cut the Sharks defence with their runners, the Sharks struggled to come into the game. They made mistakes almost everywhere, including at scrum-time, and when they did manage to build up any kind of multi-phase attack without knocking the ball on, they invariably ended up getting turned over at the breakdown.
Jean de Villiers won the man of the match award and it was he who sealed the WP victory a few minutes from time as he was put away down the right flank for a converted try that made it 33-14. The Sharks scored through Adi Jacobs on the final whistle, but it was a consolation score only.
The Sharks were well beaten long before then, perhaps as early as the 15th minute, which was when, after a Juan de Jongh break, WP got a multi-phase move in that eventually saw Jaque Fourie create the space for Gio Aplon to go over and score. Added to the early De Waal penalty, the conversion made it 10-0, and five minutes later it was 13-0 as De Waal added another three pointer.
The Sharks came back briefly through a soft try to Ryan Kankowski which came about through WP being unable to hold onto and control an Andre Pretorius grubber. Pretorius, by the way, was not at all good in this match, and he made numerous handling errors, which perhaps suggests Patrick Lambie will be back at flyhalf for the Bulls match next week.
But if that score jolted Province they didn’t show it. They just played their way back into the Sharks half, and an Adriaan Fondse lineout steal just before half-time started an impressive multi-phase attack in which a De Jongh break again featured prominently before No 8 Duane Vermeulen went over on the corner flag.
The conversion made it 20-7, and it never looked like WP would lose from there. In fact, they were far more dominant in the second half than the first, both in terms of territory and possession, but butchered several try-scoring opportunities by taking wrong options.
The Sharks’ hopes flickered briefly when they came back to 23-14 through a Louis Ludik try with 12 minutes to go, but the Durbanites just weren’t enjoying enough of the game to really threaten and if there was a freaky aspect to this game it was that the Sharks managed to cross for three tries. Such was the WP dominance on the day that it should never have happened.
WP – Tries: Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villiers; Conversions: Willem de Waal 2 and Lionel Cronje; Penalties: Willem de Waal 4.
Sharks – Tries: Ryan Kankowski, Louis Ludik and Adrian Jacobs; Conversions: Patrick Lambie 3.