The Golden Lions defended like Trojans and scored the only try of the match to beat a frustrated Western Province 22-9 at Newlands on Saturday.
The hard-fought victory sees the defending champions move to the top of the Currie Cup log, which is a position they earned through a committed and disciplined defensive display.
It was a cold and miserable day at Newlands as a wet week drizzled to an end - and the mood of the game suited the weather. Certainly the Western Province side gave the impression of lacking all passionate intensity while the Golden Lions applied themselves better to basics and to the acceptance of opportunities.
Western Province probably had the better of possession and territory, but it did not matter because they did not seem overly concerned with using either for profit..
Both sides ran from the start though this gradually fizzled out into something perfunctory. Western Province certainly ran but when centres fail to catch and pass running is merely exercise. They came close with bashing but ended up this match try-less and point-less - not a happy position for a team that wants to top the log and seeks to end the Currie Cup with lucrative home fixtures.
Mind you, the people seem to feel much the same. There were few of them, which probably has more to do with the looming Test than anything else. The Currie Cup just gets thrust into any old slot to get it over with. There can never have been a smaller match for a Currie Cup match between Western Province and the Golden Lions (Transvaal in the old language). 8 126, including the dancing girls.
Butch James kicked off with a clever short grubber that his side grabbed and used to attack. Tyrone Holmes was penalised in front of his prosts for a shoulder check on James (It was that way around) and from 8 metres out James goaled. 3-0 after 2 minutes.
Back they both went to running but the defences on both sides meant that the phases outnumbered the metres. Demetri Catrakilis missed a penalty but then Western Province scored. Don Armand, the best line-out forward on the field and the solution to Western Province's early line-out problems, got in front of Franco van der Merwe and won a Golden Lions line-out. Van Der Merwe collapsed onto Armand in the air and was penalised. 3-3 after 24 minutes.
Western Province then had a short period of lively attack with variations but then, deep inside his own territory, eighthman Warren Whiteley broke from a scrum and grubbered. Gerhard van den Heever just managed to save for Western Province. Catrakilis kicked out but not for touch and De Kock Steenkamp, despite the referee's warnings, went offside and James lobbed over an easy kick. 6-3 after 38 minutes.
A James kick forced Western Province to throw in at a five metre line-out. Siyabonga Ntubeni was freekicked for baulking at the throw-in which gave the Golden Lions a five-metre scrum but the Western Province defence held.
Early in the second half Golden Lions won a turnover and Michael Bondesio slid a kick down the right touchline where Damian de Allende was penalised for deliberately knocking the ball into touch. 9-3 after 42 minutes.
Western Province had an attacking line-out but lost the throw-in. Still a tackle penalty made it 9-6 after 44 minutes at which stage Nic Groom was sent on as a substitute for Louis Schreuder.
Western Province attacked and James was penalised and yellow-carded for a gross high tackle on Marcel Brache. James was indignant at his treatment but as he jogged off he deviated to Brache to apologise. Catrakilis goaled. 9-9 after 48 minutes.
Western Province were penalised for sealing off at the tackle. No James, Ruan Combrinck took over the kicking and goaled it. 12-9 after 52 minutes.
Western Province had a chance to level the scores - a golden chance. They were on a hectic attack. Jebb Sinclair was close and Steven Kitshoff even closer. Western Province lost the ball but the Golden Lions were penalised near their line and near their posts. Western Province opted to set up a tap. It was set up with plenty of time for the Golden Lions to organise their defence but Western Province did nothing to organise their post-tap attack and it fizzled out when Joe Pietersen knocked on.
Western Province went through many crossfield phases and the Golden Lions scored. Steenkamp looking ahead passed the ball back through his legs to Deon Helberg who raced more than 50 metres to score. 19-9 after 66 minutes.
The Golden Lions nearly scored again when Lionel Mapoe and Deon Fourie raced a long way after a ball bouncing to the Western Province line, but Fourie did well and Mapoe knocked on. But there was a tackle penalty for James to goal. 22-9 with 8 minutes play.
Man of the Match: The obvious candidates were Golden Lions - Jaco Kriel, who was at one stage the most incisive runner on the field, adventurous Andries Coetzee, strong Michael Rhodes, Butch James, but for the yellow card, and our choice as Man of the Match - rangy, energetic, thrustful Warren Whiteley.
For Western Province:
Pens: Pietersen, Catrakilis 2
For the Golden Lions:
Pens: James 4, Combrinck
Yellow card: James (Dangerous tackle, 48 mins)
Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Don Armand, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Carstens, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19 Helmut Lehmann, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Berton Klaasen, 22 Patrick Howard.
Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Deon van Rensburg, 22 James Kamana.
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistants: Christie du Preez, Linston Manuels
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein