Hooker JJ Kotze enjoyed a memorable Currie Cup debut as he scored four tries to guide Western Province to a commanding bonus-point win over the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.
Kotze, who was one of five debutants in WP’s match-day squad, had a field day as he barged over the tryline thrice to complete a first-half hat-trick and again for a fourth touchdown in the second half to set his side on their way to a comfortable 48-24 win their Currie Cup opener at Loftus Versfeld.
Matchflow: With the Springboks’ preparations for the upcoming Test window – featuring fixtures against Georgia and the British & Irish Lions – in full flow, most of the provincial teams have to go at this Currie Cup campaign with fringe players because their star first-choice players are away on national duty.
In the Blue Bulls’ case, they had to field a third-string lineup, filled with Tuks Varsity Cup squad members, for this encounter with their bitter rivals as the Bulls’ core squad is in Italy to contest the North vs South Rainbow Cup final against Treviso.
Be that as it may, the hosts drew first blood when wing Kefentse Mahlo scored a converted try as early as the fourth minute. But as the game progressed, WP’s forwards came into their own and started to exert their dominance. They won the all the forward battles and that momentum set the platform for them to steadily build a handy lead on the scoreboard.
The visitors grabbed three unanswered tries, including Kotze’s first two scores, before the Bulls could muster their second effort. With half time approaching and the score 21-12 in Province’s favour, the try-scoring hooker would have one last dart over the line before the break to extend their lead to 28-12.
As soon as the second half commenced, WP turned the screws and this youthful and inexperienced Bulls side couldn’t withstand the pressure piled on them. With the visitors’ forwards continuing to pound their opponents into submission, Kotze followed by star eighthman Evan Roos and Dan du Plessis scored in quick succession making sure there would be no comeback for the Bulls.
However, the Bulls showed great resilience to cross for a third try and with the chance of getting an all-important fourth bonus-point try, the hosts played with renewed vigour. Their cause got a significant boost when WP fullback Sergeal Petersen was sent off for a deliberate late charge when he was left stranded after the ball was chipped over his head. And the Bulls’ efforts were duly rewarded when they scored off a lineout in stoppage time to restore some respectability to the scoreline.