CAPE TOWN – Western Province stormed into the 2017 Currie Cup semifinals with 31-20 bonus-point win over the Sharks, the log-leaders, in Durban on Saturday afternoon.
WP overturned a 13-3 halftime deficit by running in four superb converted tries in the second half and in the process secured a home semifinal. The result meant that WP were able to snap the Sharks' 10-match winning streak.
The Sharks looked in good touch at the start and their confidence showed when they opted for touch when a 4th-minute kickable penalty came their way. The ploy paid off when centre Marius Louw breached the WP defence when the ball was recycled from the 5m line-out. Flyhalf Curwin Bosch added the conversion (7-0).
Six minutes later, Bosch landed a monster penalty from just inside the WP half and the hosts went further ahead with a 10-0 lead.
Midway through the half, WP started to pick up momentum and just as they managed to the turn, the Sharks were penalised for offside. WP pivot Robert du Preez goaled to reduce the lead (10-3).
Du Preez was presented with another goalable penalty four minutes later but this time he hashed the attempt.
In a 10-minute pressure spell, WP held the upper hand and looked good for a further score but two penalties that were kicked to touch failed to provide a scoring platform. Eventually, WP came away empty-handed after a glut of possession.
Towards the end of the half, Sharks managed to shake off the opposition's grip on the game and came close to scoring but WP loosie Jaco Coetzee made a try-saving turn-over virtually under his posts to avert danger.
Bosch did, however, have the last say with a TMO-referred drop goal from long range to secure a 13-3 halftime lead for the Sharks.
A real dogfight ensued when second-half play continued but neither side was able to claim ascendency as handling errors and poor option-taking ruined any chance of capitalising.
A 54th-minute scrum, 8m out from the Sharks' tryline provided WP with a superb attacking platform and they made it count when Du Preez raced through a gap in the defence to score under the posts. His conversion reduced the deficit to three points (13-10).
Du Preez was in the thick of things four minutes later when he rounded off superbly with a try under the posts again after WP ran the ball from a line-out. He added the extras and for the first time in the match, WP were in the lead (17-13).
There was a strong response from the Sharks who managed to take play deep into the WP half but they conceded a penalty at breakdown play a metre away from tryline, much to the relief of the Cape visitors.
The match was seemingly decided as a contest when WP stormed upfield with leftwing Dillyn Leyds leading the charge. Scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage added the finishing touch by darting through for a try. Du Preez added the extras (24-13).
More woe followed for the Sharks a few minutes later when lock John Schickerling crashed over for a converted try, which yielded a bonus point as well (31-13).
Sharks substitute Kobus van Wyk scored a last-gasp try against his former team and Bosch nailed the conversion from the touchline to end the scoring in the match (31-20).
Scorers: Sharks 20 (13): Try: Marius Louw. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty: Bosch. Drop goal: Bosch
WP 31 (3): Tries: Robert du Preez (2), Dewaldt Duvenage, John Schickerling. Conversions: Du Preez (4). Penalty: Du Preez
African News Agency