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Rugby | Currie Cup

WP passion books trip to Durban



Western Province produced 80 minutes of ferocious play-off passion and intensity to secure a 19-5 win over the Golden Lions at Newlands on Saturday that books them a Currie Cup final against the Sharks in Durban next Saturday.

Even by the admission of their coach, John Dobson, WP underperformed during the league phase of the competition. Although they finished second on the log to enjoy the decisive home ground advantage in this semifinal, they made heavy weather of it and lost five games along the way. For most of the regular season they were some distance behind the Sharks both on the log and in performance, and Dobson wondered this past week at his team’s inability to find consistency and their disturbing habit of drifting in and out of games.

Perhaps though the last two Saturdays have answered Dobson’s questions. Last week’s game at Kings Park was effectively a knock-out fixture in the sense that the Cape side were chasing home-ground advantage in a semifinal. As a consequence they had the desperation and determination that saw them switch on for a full 80 minutes.

It was the same in front of a crowd of nearly 25 000 mostly passionate WP supporters in this game. Province knew it was do or die, they knew the result would define their season, or close to it, and as a result they played as if their very lives depended on it. Province always looked the bigger threat on attack, and might have felt they could have put the Lions away long before they did, but it was their determined defence that was the stand-out for the hosts.

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Their impressive line-speed cut down the time the Lions had to put their dangerous attacking game into effect, and the two big Lions centres, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Harold Vorster, were hardly a factor due to them being hit hard and frequently behind the advantage line. In a nutshell, the Lions, who were also second best at the set-scrums, were suffocated out of the game. Wilco Louw must have come extremely close to grabbing the man of the match award that eventually went to Nizaam Carr.

The visitors probably weren’t helped by their coach Swys de Bruin’s strange decision to depart from his published plan of starting with Springbok front-row players Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer. By the time the pair were introduced the WP forward juggernaut had gained confidence, and Marx was never allowed to have the effect on the game that the Cape side might have feared.

WP were also ferocious at the breakdowns, and although Marx did secure a turn-over or two, it was Chris van Zyl’s men who made the bigger impression at the collisions and loose scrums. That was even though they lost their ace opensider Jaco Coetzee relatively early in the game. The Lions also lost a Coetzee at around the same time, Bok fullback Andries, and perhaps that hurt the visitors more than the loss of the flank hurt WP, who seemed to just raise their game once he departed.

It was a high quality and entertaining domestic semifinal but it took a while for the two teams to settle, with much of the early play happening between the two 10 metre lines. However, Robert du Preez had an opportunity to put his team ahead with a penalty and he made no mistake. Then a few minutes later Jaco van der Walt finished off a period of prolonged pressure by dotting down a try he was unable to convert. The Lions were ahead 5-3 after eight minutes.

It was to be the Lions’ only score of the match, and they may have rued later decisions not to kick for posts. Because WP had the lead for most of the way, they knew there was profit from kicking for posts and keeping the scoreboard mobilised. After Du Preez reclaimed the lead with a penalty after 21 minutes, WP availed themselves of the opportunity to put further daylight between themselves and the Lions by kicking two more three pointers.

Province might have felt they were wasting try-scoring chances building up to halftime as they had a few of those evade them and they did enjoy a telling territorial ascendancy, but the pivotal score of the match came just before the break. Louw burrowed his way over in the corner from an attacking lineout. Lions fans might feel there was a double movement in the score and their protest wouldn’t be completely without merit.

The score lifted the home team to an eight-point lead at halftime (13-5) and it was a crucial buffer. They played most of the second half in the right area of the field but just couldn’t get the try that looked likely to kill off the contest in the third quarter. Instead it was Du Preez’s boot that did the business for them.

WP had to reshuffle their backline when centre EW Viljoen hobbled off after 34 minutes, but Blitzbok star Ruhan Nel played brilliantly at inside centre after moving from the wing and another Blitzbok, Werner Kok, came on and showed what a fine 15-man player he is developing into.

Both of them were at the heart of a determined defensive effort in the last 10 minutes as the Lions laid siege to the Province try-line and they weren’t helped by the slew of penalties awarded against them by referee Rasta Rashavengha. Somehow it always felt like the WP determination would win the day and, forced into a position where they had to chase the game, the Lions just made too many mistakes and coughed up too much ball in the face of the WP passion.

Scores:

Western Province 19 – Try: Wilco Louw; Conversion: Robert du Preez; Penalties: Robert du Preez 4.

Golden Lions 5 – Try: Jaco van der Walt.



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