Four tries for JJ Kotze as WP forwards power past young Bulls at Loftus
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CAPE TOWN – Hooker JJ Kotze scored an incredible four tries off the back of driving mauls to set up a comfortable 48-24 victory for Western Province in their Currie Cup opener against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Kotze, who has captained the SA Under-19 team previously, put his hand up as a serious contender to replace Bok stalwart Bongi Mbonambi – who will join the Sharks later this year – by showing excellent composure at the back of the maul.
The Paul Roos Gym product got his hat trick in the third minute of injury time in the first half, and added a fourth in the second. But what would’ve also pleased coach John Dobson was Kotze’s accuracy with his lineout-throwing, where lock David Meihuizen was the main source of possession.
The Province forwards were always going to be too strong for a makeshift Bulls pack, with the Pretoria outfit decimated by national call-ups and the seniors’ involvement in Saturday night’s Rainbow Cup final against Benetton.
The likes of No 8 Evan Roos, flank Johan du Toit and tighthead prop Neethling Fouché were prominent in punching holes in the Bulls defence, with WP opting for one-off runners around the ruck fringes to get over the advantage line.
Fullback Sergeal Petersen also displayed his full array of attacking skills, using his pace and side-step to good effect, while wings Seabelo Senatla and Sihle Njezula had some promising moments too.
But it was actually the Bulls who opened the scoring through powerful left wing Kefentse Mahlo in the third minute. WP centre Dan du Plessis threw an offload inside the Bulls 22, but Bulls fullback Richard Kriel made a smart catch and put Mahlo away.
Province, though, got into their stride soon enough, and it was Petersen who provided the spark for Njezula’s try in the 11th minute, and it was all square at 7-7.
Kotze got his first touchdown of the day in the 16th minute from a lineout drive, and repeated the feat 11 minutes later.
The inexperienced Bulls showed commendable fighting spirit, and were rewarded for their endeavour when impressive flyhalf FC du Plessis took on the WP defence a few times, before captain Sango Xamlashe’s classy kick-pass found Mahlo, who held off a defender and found Kriel on his inside.
The struggling Bulls pack were not helped by prop Simphiwe Matanzima’s yellow card for collapsing a maul, and Kotze got his hat trick soon after that.
When the WP hooker grabbed his fourth try after halftime, the match was over as a contest, and Roos and Dan du Plessis added further five-pointers to stretch the lead.
Bulls replacement prop Dewald Donald pulled one back late in the game, and the hosts kept going right until the end, with flank Jaco Labuschagne diving over for a well-deserved four-try bonus point that they would not have expected to get before kickoff.
Bulls 24 – Tries: Kefentse Mahlo, Richard Kriel, Dewald Donald, Jaco Labuschagne. Conversions: FC du Plessis (1), Jandre Burger (1).
Western Province 48 – Tries: Sihle Njezula, JJ Kotze (4), Evan Roos, Dan du Plessis. Conversions: Abner van Reenen (4), Tim Swiel (1). Penalty: Swiel (1).