Western Province made it four out of four in this year's Currie Cup with a come-from-behind 23-18 win at Loftus on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The visitors trailed 10-6 after 55 minutes, but two quick-fire tries changed the complexion of the game.
The first came from a lineout just outside the Bulls 22 when a set backline move saw Seabelo Senalta take the inside ball and put Kobus van Wyk away down the right-hand touchline.
Three minutes later, Cheslin Kolbe counter-attacked from inside WP's 22, with the ball going wide to Senatla, who beat two defenders, including fullback Jesse Kriel, to score an outstanding try that put his side 10 points ahead.
Replacements Tiaan Schoeman and Kurt Coleman then exchanged penalties, before Sampie Mastriet scored a 76th-minute try that narrowed the gap to five.
The Bulls stormed back into the WP 22 and were awarded two penalties after the hooter that they tapped. The second saw them get to within 5m of the tryline before William Small-Smith knocked on.
It was a thrilling end to a thrilling game.
The Bulls kept the ball for long passages of play early on, but it was WP who had the best try-scoring chance when they counter-attacked from a turnover close to their line. Jaco Taute did well to glide through a gap and take play into opposition territory but Senatla was unable to collect his skip pass.
Province thought they had scored a little later when Demetri Catrakilis's cross-kick came off Van Wyk into the hands of Kolbe, but referee Craig Joubert ruled a knock-on. Catrakilis then left the field with blood to be replaced by Coleman, who attacked the advantage line well and put the men outside him into space.
The Bulls pack dominated the first couple of scrums and were also good with ball in hand, especially Dean Greyling, who broke tackles during two memorable runs.
It took 34 minutes for the first points to be scored. The Bulls collapsed a maul and Coleman kicked the penalty goal only to be replaced by Catrakilis.
The Bulls responded with a good attack that saw Paul Willemse being held up over the tryline. The referee then went back for the penalty, which 20-year-old Joshua Stander missed.
A Catrakilis penalty made it 6-0 early in the second half, before the Bulls took the lead through a converted Jacques du Plessis try. The referee asked the TMO to look at the pass from Kriel to Mastriet near halfway earlier in the move, only to decide himself that it had not gone forward.
Another strong Bulls scrum then earned them a penalty that Schoeman kicked.
At that stage, the hosts would have been confident of going on to record a vital win, but they then conceded two tries in three minutes that ultimately decided the outcome.
Blue Bulls – Tries: Jacques du Plessis, Sampie Mastriet. Conversion: Joshua Stander. Penalties: Tian Schoeman (2).
Western Province – Tries: Kobus van Wyk, Seabelo Senatla. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalties: Kurt Coleman (2), Catrakilis.
Blue Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Joshua Stander, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Ryan Nell.
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Stephan Coetzee, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Ruan Botha, 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Pat Howard.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images