Port Elizabeth – Despite being outplayed by Western Province, particularly in the second half, EP Kings rugby captain Luke Watson said there were many positive aspects to the team's return to the Currie Cup premier division in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Down 11-10 at halftime, WP took control with three tries in the second half to run out deserving 35-16 winners in the competition's opening game.
“I think it is a big stage for lots of our young players,” Watson said.
“It is the first time they are playing Currie Cup premier division so the pressure does get to you a little bit, so we have a lot to work on but also a lot of positives to take from the game.”
Watson led from the front and was made man of the match for his hardworking efforts. The experienced eighthman scored one try and nearly got over for a second, seeing the ball slip from his grasp on the tryline as he attempted to dive over.
While happy with some aspects of their game, Watson paid tribute to WP for the way they emerged on top in the second half.
“I thought the first half was OK, but in the second half WP pulled away and showed what serious contenders they are for this competition,” he said.
“They are a very complete outfit, and a lot of credit must go to them.”
Although competitive for large parts of the match, EP struggled to break down the WP defence and several times they failed to control their lineout possession.
One of EP Kings' younger players, Thembelani Bholi, stood out for the home side and came within a whisker of scoring a try when he was held up over the line.
“Bholi was great and I think he is one of the guys for the future.
“Also Lizo Gqoboka at loosehead prop for us and guys like wing Shakes Soyizwapi and centre Shane Gates are playing their first season of the Currie Cup. They put their hands up tonight and showed they have bright futures.”
WP skipper Juan de Jongh was delighted to return home with a maximum haul of five points, with their fourth, bonus-point try coming from Cheslin Kolbe after the hooter had gone.
“I am a very happy man,” De Jongh said. “It is never easy to come to PE and to get five points, but at the end of the day we pulled it through.”
The centre admitted a few hard words were said at halftime when they trailed the Kings and this had focused their minds in the second half as they moved into the driving seat.
He praised the accurate kicking of flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, who contributed 15 points through three conversions and three penalties.
“To have Catrakilis in our team is really good and, at the end of the day, he got us on the front foot with those points,” De Jongh said.
“It is important for us to enjoy this victory, but to come back on Monday and work hard on our errors, and hopefully we can pull the next one through as well.” – Sapa