CAPE TOWN – In retrospect, the fact that Western Province had an up-and-down 2017 Currie Cup campaign doesn’t matter.
They secured their final spot with a 19-5 win over the Golden Lions at Newlands on Saturday, and that’s what matters.
It’s the fact that they’ve lost matches that you just wouldn’t expect a side with their team sheet to lose – and in some of those disappointing outings, there were unforced errors (especially handling glitches), ill-discipline that proved costly, and an inability to convert all their chances into points.
But there was none of that at Newlands on Saturday night, when Province celebrated yet another Currie Cup semi-final victory.
The first few minutes of the second semi-final of the day didn’t produce much for fans on either side of the spectrum to get excited about.
In fact, it looked like the crowd at Newlands were in for a bit of a dull one early on.
The Lions did manage to add some excitement and get the first five-pointer of the clash in the first quarter, and Province responded with a try of their own through Wilco Louw after flyhalf Robert du Preez set up an attacking lineout in the Lions 22, and after a few pick and go drives, Province got the try to regain the lead.
But those were the only tries we saw, and the rest of the hosts’ points came courtesy of Du Preez’s right boot in the form of four penalty kicks.
In the build-up to the fixture against the Johannesburg team, WP coach John Dobson said that he had a “special plan” for the second half, and added that – unlike in their game against the Sharks in Durban last week – they would make use of their bench earlier in the encounter.
Dobson was also confident that his replacement players have the ability to “put a game away”, and with guys like loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, flyhalf Damian Willemse, wing Werner Kok and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak on the bench, that statement can’t really be disputed.
Province certainly did make use of their bench early in the contest – although it was partially injury-enforced.
Flank Jaco Coetzee was replaced late in the first half by Notshe, who didn’t fail to make his presence known with a few silky carries and runs.
Outside centre EW Viljoen also left the field with an injury in the 35th minute, and his replacement Kok made sure to contribute to Province’s cause with his all-over work-rate and tackles.
But it was Province’s watertight defence and the Lions’ ill-discipline that was the difference in Cape Town.
And the visitors’ ever-deteriorating discipline made the second half of the playoff a kind of one-sided affair – although Province couldn’t get the tries to substantiate it.
Ahead of the match, Dobson also said that with personnel like Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith, his team would have to do better at the breakdowns and react quicker, but that was certainly not an area the WP mentor could be disappointed with.
And on Province’s side, there weren’t too many players that the Newlands faithful could be unhappy with either.
Du Preez had a solid outing with the boot as he slotted four-out-of-four penalty kicks and one conversion, while lock JD Schickerling continued his superb 2017 form with another pleasing display of rugby – pleasing enough to allow Western Province fans to turn a blind eye to that yellow card he received in the first quarter for collapsing a maul.
Sevens man Ruhan Nel – who started on the wing – also got the crowd excited a couple of times with his runs.
And one man fans would have wanted to see more of, Willemse – who came on with 25 minutes to go – didn’t see much of the ball.
Western Province 19 – Try: Wilco Louw. Conversion: Robert du Preez (1). Penalties: Du Preez (4).
Golden Lions 5 – Try: Jaco van der Walt.