Chris Smith nailed a late touchline conversion to give the Vodacom Bulls a 22-20 win over Western Province at Newlands on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
With the win the Bulls go three points clear at the top of the Currie Cup table, following the Sharks’ bonus-point victory over the Pumas on Friday evening.
However, the nature of their victory will be even more inspiring for Jake White’s side after they were reduced to 14 men halfway through the second half. White and his coaching staff will be delighted that his side kept fighting, putting Western Province under massive pressure at the breakdown.
What’s more, the Bulls were able to bid Newlands farewell on a positive note in what could be their final match at the stadium. It was something that White said he would emphasise to his players in the buildup to this weekend’s game and it clearly showed as the Bulls never looked like they would go down without a fight.
On the flip side, for Province this is a defeat that could be difficult to get over. The home side had much the better of possession and territory in the first half, but honestly did not make their chances count. There was a distinct lack of cutting edge in midfield, before Ruhan Nel was brought off the bench.
The Bulls could not have asked for a better start when Cornal Hendricks sliced through the Province defence and threw a lofted pass to set Kurt-Lee Arendse up for the youngster’s first of two tries.
From there, it was pretty much all Western Province pinning the Bulls in their own half. However, the Cape side found it tough to break through a dogged Bulls defence and eventually reverted to attacking narrowly around the rucks, which eventually resulted in Juarno Augustus scoring to make it 10-5 at half time as Damian Willemse added a penalty and conversion.
The Bulls came on with a renewed vigour in the second half and started to dominate the breakdown. It was then that the game took a turning point as TMO Rasta Rasivhenge spotted a dangerous tackle by Jacques van Rooyen on Warrick Gelant. After long discussion, referee AJ Jacobs decided to brandish Van Rooyen with a red card.
The game lit up as Province looked like they had landed a decisive blow when Willemse grubbered the ball through the defence for Angelo Davids to gather and outsprint the cover defence to score.
However, demonstrating pure resolution, the Bulls refused to give up and levelled the score at 15-15 when they exploited an overlap to put Arendse away for his brace. Minutes later, Province landed another blow as they utilised their numbers, with Nel stepping past his tackler before offloading to put flank Ernst van Rhyn over in the corner.
To their credit, the Bulls even then continued to battle and put Province under enormous pressure at the breakdown, winning penalty after penalty. Eventually, after a long period in the Province 22, Smith came up with the big play as he scanned the defence, before putting in a wonderfully weighted cross-field chip to allow Marco Jansen van Vuren to score. Smith then held his nerve to slot the winning touchline conversion.
Western Province – Tries: Juarno Augustus, Angelo Davids, Ernst van Rhyn. Conversion: Damian Willemse. Penalty: Willemse.
Bulls – Tries: Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), Marco Jansen van Vuren. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty: Smith.
Western Province – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Ruhan Nel.
Bulls – 15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images/Getty Images