CAPE TOWN - It’s something that has plagued Western Province in patches this season, and it’s the very thing that proved costly when the Pumas ended their eight-year drought against Province on Friday night.
What is that occasional pest? Province’s handling errors. And boy did they pay for the temporary inability to look after the ball in Nelspruit. Or is it really that temporary?
We’ve seen it a number of times in their 2017 Currie Cup run - WP coughing up possession and ruining good scoring opportunities. And against the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium on Friday, Province were guilty of an unacceptable number of handling errors that eventually resulted in a 22-12 shock victory for the team from Mpumalanga.
The win was not only a confidence-boosting one for the Pumas, but also put them back in contention for a Currie Cup semi-final spot as the win moved them from fifth position on the log to third - level with Province on 22 points.
Province lost the ball in a few painful ways, and the fact they lost the ball after doing well to get over the gain line or when their skilful runners swerved through gaps only to give the ball up wasn’t pretty.
There were also a few tactical kicks that could have gone better, and the Pumas also showed how effective they are when it comes to the driving maul by putting up a few powerful displays in the second half, while they also got a try from the maul after a burst of power by replacement hooker Frank Herne.
But again, the most disappointing factor was all Province's visits to opposition 22 which didn’t result in points due to possession being turned over, and the handling errors all over the field.
One positive in the disappointing outing in Nelspruit was Province’s defence, but they have a lot of work to do before they host Griquas at Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 5.15 pm) as they will want to win all of their remaining games. After all, the semi-final race is wide open with four rounds to go.
The obvious area that needs fixing is Province’s ball handling, and they will also have to check out their discipline, as a yellow card from here on, like the one scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was shown for a dangerous tackles on Friday, will prove costly as the battle for the top four spots intensifies.