CAPE TOWN – The Western Province faithful would have left Newlands on Friday night with a warm, fuzzy feeling after the home side ran in six tries to blitz the Golden Lions 39-3.
The slick handling between backs and forwards, the pace of Dillyn Leyds and Seabelo Senatla out wide and the brilliant decision-making from veteran scrumhalf Jano Vermaak would all have been duly appreciated.
But within the team, and especially the management of coach John Dobson and his support staff, they will know this victory was based upon on the hard work from the men upfront and the physicality in defence.
Province survived a torrid early onslaught from the visitors in the opening exchanges, and the men in blue-and-hoops really put their bodies on the line to stem the red tide.
WP Currie Cup captain Chris van Zyl had spoken in the build-up about how his team had worked on countering the “direct running lines” of the Lions, especially close to the rucks, and how he’s played against them in the past and felt like “you just can’t hang on to them”.
The intensity in defence and speed off the line certainly paid dividends, with Province holding the Lions at bay before very much against the run of play, the home side struck first through an opportunistic try from centre Huw Jones.
The Scotland international poached a Lions 22-metre clearance from wing Anthony Volmink straight out of the air and ran in unopposed to open the scoring, with SP Marais adding the extra two points.
The Lions managed to hit back immediately when Province conceded a penalty from the restart to allow visiting flyhalf Jaco van der Walt to slot the ball through the uprights to reduce the deficit to four points.
That was, however, as good as it got for the Lions, with WP displaying their class 10 minutes later.
After a Lions scrum infringement on the halfway line, the visitors’ lack of discipline cost them an extra 10 metres, which allowed Vermaak to pounce with a quick tap penalty.
After good inter-passing between Vermaak and Nizaam Carr, the ball was spread to centre EW Viljoen, who beat opposite number Rohan Janse van Rensburg before off-loading on the inside to captain Chris van Zyl.
The best was kept for last, though, with 20-year-old debutant Cobus Wiese showing brilliant handling skills to pick the ball up on his bootlaces before diving over in the corner.
WP had certainly found their rhythm by then, and it was only matter of time before Leyds left his mark on the game.
The Springbok wing started a move 80 meters out from the Lions tryline, beating defenders almost at will with his pace, before popping the ball to Jones on the 22m line for the centre to run through for his second try of the evening.
It was vintage Province rugby and certainly had the faithful cheering heartily from the terraces.
Leyds was, though, caught with a high tackle in the movement and referee Jaco van Heerden had no choice but to punish Volmink with a yellow card.
For the second week running, the Lions’ were left to rue being a player short for a period of the match as WP pounced on the opportunity to stretch their lead after the break.
They certainly made the extra man count, with Senatla dotting down after running on to a perfectly-weighted grubber kick from Viljoen, before Vermaak finished off a another telling move in the opposite corner within the next 60 seconds.
Province had to wait until the final minutes of the match before adding to their tally when Senatla collected his brace on the night.
But once again he had his fellow wing Leyds to thank after the former Bishops prodigy twinkle-toed his way through the Lions defence.
The victory also propelled WP into third position on the Currie Cup log.
Western Province 39 – Tries: Huw Jones (2), Seabelo Senatla (2), Cobus Wiese, Jano Vermaak. Conversions: SP Marais (1), Damian Willemse (2). Penalty: Willemse (1).
Lions 3 – Penalty: Jaco van der Walt (1).