WP book their flight to Durban
Western Province made sure of their second appearance in a major final for 2010 when they comprehensively outplayed the Cheetahs 31-7 in a one-sided Absa Currie Cup semifinal at Newlands on Saturday evening.
WP scored three tries to one and were always in the lead once Bryan Habana had scored the first try of the match in the 21st minute to set the home team on the road to one of their most compelling and emphatic performances of the winter.
By the time they went to half-time 13-0 up, their place in the Durban final against the Sharks already looked assured, and they quickly confirmed their passage up the coast as in the first 10 minutes of the second half they kicked a penalty and scored a try to put the issue beyond doubt at 21-0 up with half an hour left to play.
It was game, set and match, and with the WP age-group teams also contesting their respective finals, WP fans who were near their computers would have been justified if they started a rush for air tickets to Durban for the week of the final.
For a long time it looked like WP would complete a whitewash of their opponents, and in truth the Cheetahs were lucky to get on the board. Their late consolation try came after WP had brought their entire bench on with 10 minutes to go, replacement flyhalf Lionel Cronje gifting Cheetahs wing Philip Snyman the score with a wayward pass.
On the evidence of this game, although they won’t have the massive advantage they enjoy when they play on the green grass of home, WP have sent out an unambiguous message that they won’t be travelling to the all-coastal final just to make up the numbers.
Make no mistake, the Sharks will be a massive obstacle on their home ground, but to win as comprehensively as WP have over these past two weekends against good teams like the Sharks and the Cheetahs tells you just how much this Province combination has grown.
WP had to wait until the 21st minute to get their first points, and up to that point there might have been just a small sense of disquiet among the mostly WP fans in the near capacity crowd. There had been much frenetic rugby in the first 21 minutes, and though you always had the sense that WP had the upper hand, the Cheetahs were competitive and were having their moments on attack.
Both teams had been presented with early opportunities to get points through relatively easy penalty kicks, but it was almost as if a sheet of cellophane had been draped between the uprights as first Willem de Waal and then the Cheetahs’ Louis Strydom -- in his instance from almost right in front -- took turns to miss what would normally have been regulation three pointers.
It was WP who appeared stronger at the breakdown, however, and there were a couple of turn-overs in the first quarter that sent out a warning about what might happen later. And so it proved, first try coming after lock Adriaan Fondse had turned over the Cheetahs in a tackle out wide and Bryan Habana was able to exploit the space available to go clear and run in the try from 40 metres out.
After that WP always looked like winners, and when their former match-winner De Waal, who certainly proved his value to WP as a goalkicker in this game, had stretched the advantage to 10-0 after 32 minutes, you got the impression that the Cheetahs were flustered.
Indeed, the visitors employed a quite ugly approach in the final minutes of the first half, with their frustration being translated into little niggling incidents that showed that their focus had been deflected and that WP had got on top of them.
WP were as massive as ever on defence, they gave the Cheetahs no space to move in, and with skipper Burger so immense both in his physicality at the breakdowns and in carrying the ball up, the Cheetahs were blanketed by their opponents.
All it required was Province to be the first on the scoreboard in the second half to confirm the result, and it came just three minutes into the second half as De Waal kicked another long-range penalty as the Cheetahs continued to infringe.
Six minutes later it was that man Burger who showed he is a man of many talents as this time he produced an well timed off-load that sent flank partner Francois Louw, who delivered his best game for some time, down the left touchline. He was tackled once, went to ground, but then up he stood and was able to reach out for the score that put WP 21 points ahead with half an hour to go.
Given the lead they had, kicking became more important, which explains why Dewaldt Duvenage came on, but by this time WP were so confident that you got the impression it would be safe for them to run from almost anywhere.
Another De Waal penalty made it 24-0, and then came a sublime try in which Habana kicked ahead, gathered himself and put Gio Aplon over for the third try as WP completed their dominance over a well beaten Cheetahs team.
Vodacom Western Province - Tries: Bryan Habana, Francois Louw, Gio Aplon. Conversions: Willem de Waal (2). Penalties: De Waal (4).
Vodacom Free State Cheetahs - Try: Phillip Snyman. Conversion: Louis Strydom.