Unbeaten Province go top
Western Province retained their unbeaten status and moved to the top of the Currie Cup standings with an impressive 25-19 win over the Sharks.
Western Province retained their unbeaten status and moved to the top of the Currie Cup standings with an impressive 25-19 win over the Sharks before 18 497 spectators at Newlands on Saturday.
The late bonus-point the Sharks salvaged, saw the men from Durban finish the first half of the season in second place on the standings - just ahead of the Lions.
The Sharks had possession, the Sharks had the territory and Western Province had the points.
Mind you they had to battle for the win in the second half when, in the last quarter of the match, the Sharks outscored them 19-7, seven points which deserved far, far more, a sublime try.
There was no breath in the whole of the Western Province as Gio Aplon broke swerved and scored.
Western Province have been notoriously poor second-half performers this season. The Bulls took victory away from them in the second half and so did the Golden Lions last week, Draws, it is true but draws when victory seemed assured. This time they maintained victory.
They should have won, as they scrummed the Sharks to pieces, beat them at the tackle and made their line-out a disappointing lottery. From that you would expect more than a six-point victory. It would have been but for the handling. Even top players knocked on simple passes - Juan de Jongh, Cheslin Kolbe, Nizaam Carr, Nic Groom and Gio Aplon - not players you would expect to have butter fingers.
The Sharks had their setbacks, losing Jaco Reinach and Craig Burden early on, but their game was too limited for success. They went in for one-pass phases till late in the match when Fred Zeilinga was at flyhalf. They have strong men like Jean Deysel and Kyle Cooper but passing is not their strong point. Catching was a Western Province weakness, passing a Sharks weakness.
Western Province got going early - from the kick-off in fact as Gerhard van den Heever came racing out of defence. Some Shark runners were lazy and Kurt Coleman goaled. 3-0 after 2 minutes.
Straight afterwards they nearly got a try when Aplon picked up a dropped ball and gave to Kolbe just inside the left touchline. He raced the long race for the corner and was over in Reinach's tackle till the TMO detected a left foot on the touchline before he did so.
Burden had a burst but after a sloppy Sharks line-out Western Province were back on the attack and Juan de Jongh, wearing a bonnet for this match and enjoying superb handling from Scarra Ntubeni and Damian De Allende,, went for the left corner as Tim Whitehead tried to stop him. This time the TMO advised that De Jongh had in fact scored. 8-0 after 16 minutes.
It was another great pass, this time a long and accurate one, from Ntubeni that gave Western Province their second try. A penalty produced a five-metre line-out. They mauled and then went wide left where Ntubeni's magnificent pass skipped two to get to Kolbe who scored in the left corner. Coleman converted well. 15-0 after 24 minutes.
After the Sharks had gone through many one-pass phases Butch James chipped brilliantly, Michael Rhodes just beat SP Marais to the ball but in doing so carried over and conceded a five-metre scrum. Western Province survived and then attacked. They would surely have scored had Steven Kitshoff, who enjoys pretending to be a back, not knocked on.
The half-time score was 15-0 - a half in which Western Province had not once put the ball into a scrum.
The second half looked to be consolidating Western Province's position as Carr broke through on a long run, Marais was penalised and Coleman goaled. 18-0 after 42 minutes.
Kolbe knocked on and the Sharks attacked. They got the ball to Lwazi Mvovo on a narrow overlap. He ran through Groom's attempted tackle and scored as Van den Heever clung to him. 18-5 after 58 minutes.
Then came a try to dream of. From a tackle/ruck Groom passed to Aplon who skipped between two tight forwards as he sped down the middle of the field. Marais waited for him but Aplon turned him inside out, leaving no chance even to attempt a tackle and Aplon scored under the posts. 25-5 after 60 minutes.
Western Province had a bonus-point try in their sights but did not manage it in 20 minutes while the unlikely Sharks scored two tries,
Cooper went on a burst and Gary van Aswegen tackled him, but the Sharks were attacking till Kolbe and Aplon combined to force Deysel into touch at the cornerpost. Western Province's clearance was poor and again the Sharks attacked, this time scoring strange try. They bashed at the line. McLeod went for the score but was caught and the ball went forward. It went forward again into the Western Province in-goal where Carr showed only a passing interest in the ball. Botes was more interested and fell on it. The referee referred to the TMO who found that Rohan Kitshoff had ripped the ball from McLeod and that meant it was not lost forward. It had bounced into the Western Province in-goal off a Sharks head, which meant it was not a knock. All that added up to a try for the dedicated Sharks' captain. Zeilinga converted. 25-12 with 13 minutes to play.
From a scrum, Western Province attacked and Van Aswegen was close, but Steven Kitshoff knocked on. The Sharks were penalised at their destroyed scrum and Western Province opted for a five-metre line-out in their search for a fourth try, but they lost the line-out.
Brok Harris was at centre but lost the ball as he was tackled. Zeilinga kicked down towards the Western Province line where Van Aswegen passed to Aplon who dropped the ball. Whitehead drove the fullback into his in-goal to set up a five-metre scrum for the Sharks. They gathered their strength, won it and bashed at Western Province over and over again. Western Province were penalised and again the Sharks bashed till Cooper forced his way over for a try about six metres in from touch. The Sharks were eight points behind. The conversion would earn them a bonus point. Zeilinga converted and the match ended.
Man of the Match: So many of the heroes had clay hands but still for that exhilarating try we name Gio Aplon of Western Province as the Man of the Match.
For Western Province:
Tries: De Jongh, Kolbe, Aplon
Cons: Coleman, Van Aswegen
Pens: Coleman 2
For the Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Botes
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Michael van der Spuy.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Sizo Maseko, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Butch James, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jacques Botes (captain), 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Danie Mienie.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Edwin Hewitt, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Jaco van Tonder.
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen and Marc van Zyl
TMO: Deon van Blommestein