Just short in the end
Western Province hung on to beat hosts the Pumas 33-32 in the final match of the first day at Craven Week in Middelburg on Monday.
The home side outscored the Cape side by four tries to three, but the steady boot of Province goalkicker Tiaan Swanepoel ultimately proved the difference as they held off a spirited challenge from the Pumas.
The Pumas made a spirited start to the game, with an early drop-goal flying wide of the poles and a tighthead in the first scrum against a much bigger pack, but it was Province who opened the scoring with two penalties from the boot of Tiaan Swanepoel.
The Pumas hit back with a try to fullback Barend Smit who crashed over the line to put them ahead, but the Cape side soon had the lead back when Swanepoel slotted his third penalty to make it 9-7.
The see-saw battle continued as another scrum penalty for the fired-up hosts saw flyhalf Muller Joubert put them 10-9 up with his first penalty, but they were struck a blow soon afterwards when No.8 was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.
Western Province took advantage straight away as their lock Jaco Willemse crashed over for a try after a good run from scrumhalf Herschell Jantjies, and Swanepoel's conversion gave them a 16-10 lead.
They kept the pressure on and a flowing movement saw the ball go wide to right wing Duncan Saals who finished well to stretch their lead to 23-10.
As the Pumas got back to a full team they were cut down again, with lock Driaan Bester receiving a yellow card for not rolling away at the breakdown.
It was not long before Saals had his second try, as he snapped up a loose ball and broke a few tackles to race away and put his team firmly in control.
The Pumas hit back just before half-time with a try from their right wing Mfundo Ndlovu who was on the end of an impressive move that saw fullback Barend Smit break Province's defensive line.
That reduced the deficit to 30-15 at the break, but it was a long way back for the depleted home side who still had to play the first five minutes of the second half with 14 men.
The Pumas were first to strike in the second half, but Province hit back with a penalty of their own to maintain the 15-point gap with just over ten minutes to play.
Province were reduced to 14 men for the last eight minutes when flank Zain Davids was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements for his side and the Pumas took advantage immediately with scrumhalf Stephan Enslin darting over for a try to make it 33-25.
That set up a tense finish for the defending champions, and the Pumas managed to cross the tryline again in extra time, but they came up just short in the end as Province held on for the win.
Man of the match: Western Province wing Duncan Saals showed great pace and awareness to punish the Pumas defence when given the chance.
For Western Province:
Tries: Willemse, Saals 2
Cons: Swanepoel 3
Pens: Swanepoel 4
Tries: Smit, Ndlovu, Enslin, Bester
Cons: Joubert 3
Pens: Joubert 3
Yellow card: Oscar Schuld (Pumas, 19 mins - Dangerous tackle), Driaan Bester (Pumas, 30 mins - Repeated infringements) Zain Davids (WP, 62 mins - Repeated infringements)
Pumas: 15 Barend Smit (HTS Middelburg), 14 Mfundo Ndlovu (Standerton), 13 Telvin Mhlong (Hoërskool Middelburg), 12 Cyprian Nkomo (Hoërskool Middelburg), 11 Siyabonga Nkosi (Piet Retief), 10 Joubert Muller (Ligbron), 9 Stephan Enslin (HTS Middelburg), 8 Oscar Schuld (Nelspruit), 7 Bernard Kotzenberg (HTS Middelburg), 6 Chrisjan Steynberg (HTS Middelburg), 5 Driaan Bester (HTS Middelburg), 4 Ian Joubert (Standerton), 3 Wiehan Steyn (Nelspruit), 2 Marinus Enslin (Nelspruit), 1 Beki Shongwe (Barberton), 16 Marnus van der Merwe (HTS Middelburg), 17 Cauwen Mashaba (Generaal Hertzog), 18 Ruan Groenewald (HTS Middelburg), 19 Riaan le Roux (Nelspruit), 20 Mpumelelo Matias (Hoërskool Middelburg), 21 Siyabonga Masuka (Piet Retief), 22 Siyabonga Khalishwayo (Piet Retief).
Western Province: 15 Gerard Pieterse (Bishops), 14 Duncan Saals (Kasselsvlei), 13 Justin Heunis (Bishops), 12 Edrich Venter (Paul Roos), 11 Edwill van der Merwe (Paul Roos), 10 Jez McIntrye (Bishops), 9 Herschell Jantjies (Paul Roos), 8 Saud Abrahams (Bishops), 7 Zain Davids (Rondebosch), 6 Mervano da Silva (Bishops), 5 Ruben de Villiers (Paarl Boys' High), 4 Jaco Willemse (Paarl Gim), 3 JP Smith (Bishops), 2 Jacques van Zyl (Paul Roos), 1 Gavin van der Berg (Paarl Gim), 16 Shane Farmer (Tygerberg), 17 Wikus Groenewald (Paarl Boys' High), 18 Jerome Korf (Paul Roos), 19 Charl-Francois du Toit (Paarl Boys' High), 20 Jondré Williams (Boland Landbou), 21 Aidynn Cupido (Paul Roos), 22 Ryan Muller (Bellville).