PRETORIA – The rain may have had the final say in this one, but Western Province had done enough by the halftime interval and the game being called off to emerge deserved 34-7 winners over the Blue Bulls in the last Currie Cup league game.
The torrential downpour that had hit the capital prior to the game forced kickoff to be delayed by 15 minutes, and two lightning strikes during the halftime interval left officials with no choice but to call off the game, with WP well in control of proceedings.
The slippery conditions and persistent rain proved to be the enemy to the Blue Bulls, while playing into the hands of the visitors who not only proved that they are the best team in the competition.
But the win also secured them a home final if they are able to overcome the Bulls in next weekend’s semi-final encounter at Newlands.
And ahead of that semi-final next week, Province will go in with a huge psychological advantage having bullied the men in blue in their own backyard.
Springbok prop Wilco Louw along with fellow front-rowers hooker Scarra Ntubeni and Ali Vermaak put in a masterful scrummaging performance that sunk the Bulls.
Louw, who was playing in his 50th Currie Cup match, exerted enough pressure on his opposite number Matthys Basson, who was eventually yellow carded in the 16th minute, to not only earn his team a penalty try.
But the visitors were able to milk enough penalties from the set-piece, which entrenched their dominance on the game.
So dominant was the visitors’ scrum that their second try scored by flank Kobus van Dyk in the 30th minute had come from another massive shunt by the pack at scrum time.
Western Province were seemingly content on playing off the Bulls mistakes, and those errors were plentiful as the home side forced the issue by trying to play rugby instead of employing a more tactical approach to the game.
Even though the hosts were able to score through Ruan Steenkamp in the 26th minute from their persistence from the pick-up-and-go strategy, it was only ever going to work when deep in opposition territory.
While the rain killed the contest and any prospects of a flowing game of running rugby, the Bulls will be kicking themselves at how easily they handed the game to the visitors.
Having played in similar conditions at the beginning of the competition against the Free State Cheetahs, WP were well versed in what not to do.
They were more than happy to play as little rugby as possible, but maximise on the few opportunities.
Sergeal Petersen’s try in the 32nd minute was another example of how the Bulls spilled possession on attack.
And the visitors were quick to pounce on the ball, with Petersen only left to pick up and dive over after replacement flyhalf Tinus de Beer had failed to gather the ball five metres from the line.
But it was how Province closed out the first half and ultimately the game that would have sent out a warning to the Bulls ahead of next weekend’s semi-final clash in Cape Town.
Semifinals of Premier Division confirmed - The Cell C Sharks/Xerox Golden Lions clash at Jonsson Kings Park will kick off at 14h30 and the DHL Western Province/Vodacom Blue Bulls match at DHL Newlands will start at 17h00. @sharksrugby @WP_RUGBY @Springboks @DirectAxis @NashuaLTD pic.twitter.com/8VHd2vzKPd
With their confidence sky high and not at all dampened by the rain, Province deceived the Bulls pack from a lineout, with replacement loose forward Jaco Coetzee escaping through the middle of the maul to score unhindered for the bonus-point try.
Blue Bulls 7 – Try: Ruan Steenkamp. Conversion: Tinus de Beer (1).
Western Province 34 – Tries: Penalty Try, Kobus van Dyk, Sergeal Petersen, Jaco Coetzee. Conversions: SP Marais (3). Penalties: Marais (2).