EW Viljoen scored a brace of tries as Western Province secured a 34-27 bonus-point win over the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Province had fallen to seventh in the log standings by the time the game kicked off, while the Sharks had slipped to second after the Cheetahs secured a comfortable bonus-point win over the EP Kings earlier in the day.
A loss for the hosts would have effectively killed off their playoff hopes, but they produced an inspired second-half performance to outscore the Sharks 17-7 and come away with just their second win of the season.
Ultimately, plenty of credit should go to returning flyhalf Rob du Preez, who created four tries through a well-executed delayed pass, chip kick, cross-kick and grubber.
Province made the perfect start to proceedings, with centre Johnny Kotze running a beautiful line to latch on to a well-timed pop pass from Du Preez and dart over under the posts after just two minutes of action.
And although the Sharks quickly worked their way back into the match and banked three points via the boot of Curwin Bosch, a poor handling error enabled Province to launch a counter-attack that ultimately saw Blitzboks star Werner Kok snatch up a chip kick and sprint over to score.
In what certainly looked to be materialising as one of the more high-quality Currie Cup clashes this season, Bosch and Du Preez traded subsequent penalties, but it was Province that held on to a handy 17-6 lead after the opening quarter.
Yet, while the hosts had done well to lay an early foundation, the Sharks enjoyed clear superiority at scrum time in the opening stanza, which has been a real strength of theirs this season.
As it was, the Sharks’ opening try had its source from a scrum penalty, with scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer taking a quick tap, and after possession was recycled, Jean-Luc du Preez was eventually put away in the corner.
It marked a considerable momentum shift as the Sharks finished the half with clear momentum on their side, and Bosch knocking over another couple of penalties to send the Durban-based side into a 20-17 lead at the break.
There was no doubt that the interval came at the perfect time for a Province side that had found itself on the back foot, and soon after the restart they swung momentum back in their favour as a lovely-weighted Du Preez cross kick was swallowed up by Viljoen to score.
To suddenly make matters worse for the Sharks, Du Preez was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the 46th minute, although WP failed score any points during this time.
Ironically, it was just as the Sharks had been restored to a full complement that a dominant WP lineout drive took them from the 22 to the tryline, and eventually flanker Kobus van Dyk was put away for a simple try in the corner.
It took the hosts into a 27-20 lead, and with less than 15 minutes to go, Du Preez once again turned into provider as he put in a little grubber that was picked up by Viljoen to score his second try on the night.
That score seemed to have secured the result, but the Sharks hit straight back as a wonderfully worked movement ultimately enabled replacement Rhyno Smith to down, with the conversion reducing the deficit to seven with 10 minutes to play.
However, Province were able to hold out from there on to clinch a much-needed victory.
Western Province – Tries: Johnny Kotze, Werner Kok, EW Viljoen (2), Kobus van Dyk. Conversions: Robert du Preez (3). Penalty: Du Preez.
Sharks – Tries: Jean-Luc du Preez, Rhyno Smith. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (5).
Western Province – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Stefan Willemse, 5 Chris van Zyl (c), 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Jurie van Vuuren, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 EW Viljoen.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 S'bura Sithole, 10 Inny Radebe, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Jean Droste, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Michael Claassens, 21 Heimar Williams, 22 Rhyno Smith.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images