Western Province remain unbeaten in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge (SRC) but their run of 17 consecutive victories was ended last weekend by the Boland Cavaliers who held the defending champions to a 24-24 draw.
It meant only three log points for Province, something coach John Dobson was hoping to avoid as it could see his side not ending the league phase as the top-ranked pool winner.
That honour might go the way of the unbeaten North Section pacesetters the Pumas who have won all six outings.The men from Mpumalanga province have amassed 29 points and trail Province by three with a game in hand.
It was a second hard-fought Cape derby in the South Section, the first won by Province at Newlands 23-21 courtesy of a penalty goal booted over with five minutes left on the clock.
Boland will have wanted to exact revenge second time round with home advantage and nearly pulled it off, but the men in black, who enjoyed a healthy 17-point lead at half-time, could not add to their tally and had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Province made the most of a strong wind at their backs and had an opportunity to win outright at the death thanks to the brilliance of former SA Schools star Juarno Augustus, who came off the bench and single-handedly turned the tie.
The big No 8, voted the top player at last year’s Under-20 World Cup, scored two tries and set up another as Province hit back with a vengeance and almost pulled off an unlikely victory.
Augustus’ last try, on the stroke of full time, presented flyhalf Josh Stander with the potential winning conversion, but his effort from a challenging angle missed the target.
It was a definite wake-up call for coach John Dobson and his gutsy warriors ahead of the next round of knockout matches once the Pool phase has run its course.
Province (six wins and a draw - 32 points) have an unassailable 13-point lead at the top of the South Section ahead of next weekend’s final league clash with visiting South Western Districts who they thumped 50-3 first time round.
Then the second round and far tougher opponents lie in wait for the Streeptruie. The Pumas and Free State are potential opponents come the latter stages of the competition.
The quarter-finals will see the top-ranked pool winner at end of league phase play the lowest-ranked third team in the quarterfinals; the second-ranked pool winner plays the top-ranked third-placed team; the lowest-ranked pool winner takes on the lowest-ranked runner-up; the top-ranked runner-up tackles the second-ranked runner-up.
Province have scored the most points (319) and conceded the least (119) as things stand, while also scoring the most tries (49) and conceding the second least (19).
Rightwinger Duncan Saal has dotted down nine tries to be second overall to Griquas’ Enver Brandt (11), while Stander (60 points) is fourth highest points scorer behind frontrunner Earll Douwrie of the Blue Bulls (72).