In an absolute ripper of a game, Western Province secured their first Currie Cup home final since 2014 by edging the Blue Bulls 35-32 in their semifinal at Newlands on Saturday night.
However, they had to do so after 20 minutes of extra time after a transformed Bulls side pushed them to the limit and made them look vulnerable for most of the contest.
Visiting outside centre Dylan Sage scored his side’s fourth try on the stroke of full-time, deadlocking the score at 32-all after Bulls flyhalf Manie Libbok missed the match-winning conversion.
A 13th minute penalty in extra time from Province wing SP Marais proved the eventual difference as two exhausted sides slugged it out without much reward.
Who was the star in this match?
Marais kept his team in the game with his unerring boot in a very challenging wind when the Bulls were threatening a stranglehold on the game. He ended with 30 points, including Province’s first try that launched their fightback.
Key moments and themes
- The Blue Bulls were full value as opponents, totally overturning their form after being annihilated at Loftus just a week earlier. For large parts of the game, they looked as if they could produce a massive upset by attacking with zest and skill. What made that more impressive is that their set-piece wasn’t always convincing, meaning they lacked a platform at times.
- Province took a early 6-0 lead through Marais but they were met by stern Bulls defence, which seemed to unsettle the home side while also imbuing the Bulls with confidence.
- That confidence bloomed fully after the Bulls scored the opening try through flank Ruan Steenkamp in the 22nd minute from close range. Libbok then produced a brilliant pick-up and off-load to release wing Duncan Matthews, extending their lead to 14-6.
- Libbok ghosted past the Province defence shortly after the restart as the Bulls stormed into a 24-12 lead, but that finally shook the home side from their slumber as they finally strung phases together and made their possession count. Marais’ try was well-worked after the Bulls botched a line-out, while patience and power saw replacement scrumhalf Paul de Wet dot over.
- With the Bulls’ penalty count mounting, their resistance seemed over as Marais continued to be on target. However, the Bulls put immense pressure on the final scrum of regulation time – overturning their struggles previously in that set-piece – allowing the ball to pop loose and for Sage to score.
- Extra time was predictably gritty as both sides fell a bit flat. Bulls fans though will bemoan a questionable turnover from WP wing Sergeal Petersen, who didn’t seem to release the tackled player right at the end.
Western Province – Tries: SP Marais, Paul de Wet. Conversions: Marais (2). Penalties: Marais (7).
Blue Bulls – Tries: Ruan Steenkamp, Duncan Matthews, Manie Libbok, Dylan Sage. Conversions: Libbok (3). Penalties: Libbok (2).