CAPE TOWN – It’s not the fact that the Pumas ended an eight-year drought against Western Province that should hurt them the most, but rather everything that happened within those scrappy 80 minutes.
At the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Friday night, Western Province produced one of their poorest performances this Currie Cup season to go down 22-12.
And it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the most positive, or only few positives in their game were their defence, mostly in the first half, their scrummaging performance and wing Seabelo Senatla’s almost 80-metre intercept try that extended their lead in the first half.
WP’s production in Mpumalanga was also tainted by a few tactical kicks that didn’t exactly impress, but Province will be most disappointed in the number of handling errors they made.
The ones that hurt the most were those balls lost on the gain-line that disrupted promising attacking situations.
And after trailing 12-3 at the break, the Pumas started their second stanza with a lot of intent, but that firing start was certainly made much easier by a WP handling error that proved costly.
The hosts got their first try when Province fullback Craig Barry failed to secure his grip on the ball after a pass from Damian Willemse in their red zone.
The ball bounced unfavourably all the way into the visitors’ in-goal area, and WP were cruelly punished for their mistakes when it came to handling the ball when Barry’s kick out of his in-goal area got charged down, and the ball was grounded for the try by Pumas pivot Kobus Marais.
Another area that wasn’t a very pleasing one for the visitors was the driving maul.
Earlier this week, WP captain Chris van Zyl spoke about the Pumas’ efficient drive, and they reminded Province just how effective their maul can be with a couple of powerful moves in the second half – with one resulting in a try after a burst forward by replacement hooker Frank Herne.
It would be very reasonable to question if referee Marius van der Westhuizen should have awarded the try that stretched the Pumas’ lead from 15-12 to 22-12 as the last pass to right wing Jerome Pretorius looked forward.
But regardless of whether it should have been a try or a scrum to Province, one thing’s for sure – the Capetonians will have to tidy up their game if they want to stay within the top four spots on the log with four weeks left before the playoffs.
Province next face Griquas at Newlands on Saturday (5.15pm kickoff).
Pumas 22 – Tries: Kobus Marais, Frank Herne, Jerome Pretorius. Conversions: Marais (2). Penalty: Marais (1).
Western Province 12 – Tries: JD Schickerling, Seabelo Senatla. Conversion: Damian Willemse (1).