Western Province made an encouraging start to their Currie Cup title defence as they beat the Free State Cheetahs 32-0 in torrid conditions in Newlands on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
As it was in the Rugby Challenge quarter-final, when these sides last met, rain made running rugby very difficult as a light sprinkling turned into a complete deluge as the game went on.
Western Province’s back three of SP Marais, JJ Engelbrecht and Dillyn Leyds coped admirably under the high ball, while scrumhalf Jano Vermaak used his experience well from behind the pack.
Free State, meanwhile, will be disappointed as they struggled to adapt to conditions they should be used to, having played a season of Pro14 rugby.
The first half as a whole was dominated by a litany of handling errors, with neither side able to build too much momentum as they were probably better suited to play in drier conditions.
It was Province who started the better as they shrugged off an early yellow card to No 8 Juarno Augustus, for taking Cheetahs centre Nico Lee out in the air, as fullback Marais knocked over a couple of penalties to give them a 6-0 lead.
The hosts, who threatened the most with ball in hand, added to their lead after the half-time hooter when centre Ruhan Nel stepped past his tackler to slide in for the opening try of the match to give Province a 13-0 lead at the break.
The rain became torrential in the second half, but Province still came out firing with two early tries through Augustus, who powered past four defenders to score, and hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who went over from a strong driving maul.
JD Shickerling all but sealed the game on the hour mark as he muscled his way over for Province’s bonus-point try.
The Cheetahs launched a late assault on the Province line as they tried their best to score a consolation try but the hosts kept them out.
Western Province – Tries: Ruhan Nel, Juarno Augustus, Scarra Ntubeni, JD Shickerling. Conversions: SP Marais (3). Penalties: Marais (2).
Western Province – 15 SP Marais, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Dillyn Leyds (c), 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Michael Kumbirai, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ernst van Rhyn, 20 Herschel Jantjies, 21 Dan du Plessis, 22 Sergeal Petersen.
Free State Cheetahs – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Nico Lee, 11 William Small-Smith, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Jasper Wiese, 5 Dennis Visser, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Günther Janse van Vuuren, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Stephan Malan, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Ernst Stapelberg.
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix