It was a semi-final for the ages at Newlands.
The North-South Derby hadn’t been as revered recently as it was in the past, but Western Province and the Blue Bulls put on a drama-filled 100 minutes of exhilaration at Newlands on Saturday.
WP held their nerve to make it through to the Currie Cup final against the Sharks, and we looked at five factors that won it for Province…
1 First-half power scrumming
The way he dominated Trevor Nyakane in the first 40 minutes, was as if Wilco Louw was ‘walking’ forward in the scrums. Penalty after penalty followed, and it kept WP in the game through four SP Marais three-pointers. Province did little else right in the first half, so those penalties were crucial.
2 SP Marais’ boot
The likes of Gavin Lawless, Casper Steyn and Derick Hougaard used to slot multiple penalties over the years, and SP Marais showed that he can be regarded as a goal-kicker who can handle high-pressure situations by slotting seven penalties and two conversions.
Ironically he missed one in the first half of extra time, but quickly put things right with what proved to be the winning kick to go with his try, resulting in a 30-point haul.
3 Real character at 24-15 down
Manie Libbok benefited from a bit of magic by Duncan Matthews to put the Blue Bulls nearly out of sight with a nine-point lead.
WP could easily have dropped their heads and felt that it would not be their day, but Dillyn Leyds matched Matthews’ sorcery with a delicious offload to SP Marais to score a few minutes later.
4 Substitutions from the coach
John Dobson made a number of changes in the 55th minute, bringing on Salmaan Moerat, Jaco Coetzee and Paul de Wet, and a few minutes later, on came Josh Stander and Scarra Ntubeni. They all brought real impetus to the WP effort.
5 Gutsy defence
First Scarra Ntubeni, then Sergeal Petersen, and finally JJ Engelbrecht. At various stages in the 80 minutes and in extra time, Province kept waves after waves of attacking phases from the Bulls at bay, and while Dylan Sage eventually scored, it was in the corner to make the conversion difficult.
Ruan Steenkamp made a mistake to try and beat Engelbrecht on the outside, and was easily bundled into touch to end the mother of all semi-finals.