Western Province resisted a late surge from the Cheetahs to win 19-13 at Newlands.
The Cheetahs rallied with a late converted try to draw within six points, but Province showed enough character and defensive solidity to hang on for the win.
It was by no means a polished performance from the Cape boys, but a home victory will be their primary concern. The Cheetahs have now lost three on the bounce, and one wonders when they will spark into life, if ever.
Province were the better side from the outset, building patiently through phases with their big strike runners, before testing the Cheetahs in the wide channels. The speed they were able to generate on the ruck recycle, thanks to some very efficient cleaning, troubled the Cheetahs, whose defensive line was constantly scrambling to reform.
To their credit, the Cheetahs resisted bravely for most of the match, making their first time tackles and scrambling well in defence to blunt Province’s attack. However, Province’s inability to convert their possession into points due to numerous fundamental errors or poor decision making, cannot be overlooked.
They should have lead by more than six at the break (12-6), Willem de Waal and Jacques-Louis Potgieter sinking four and two penalties respectively, and the hosts would have been acutely aware that they left points on the track.
In fact, only a combination of the Cheetahs’ ineptitude in the red zone and outstanding defence ensured that Province weren’t trailing at the break.
Desperate defence in the corner repelled a Cheetahs player’s lunge for the line, and two phases later they turned over possession. It would become the a familiar and frustrating scenario for the Cheetahs, but they have nobody to blame for their tactical naivety and impatience but themselves.
The directive from both sets of coaches at half-time would surely have been to display more patience and purpose on attack, to play in the opposition’s half, and maintain discipline. For the Cheetahs that directive would have extended to adopting a more direct approach.
Province, however, continued in their wasteful ways by coughing up the pill in 3m short of the tryline just after the restart. The ball saw plenty of air thereafter, but many of their attacks were far too lateral to trouble the Cheetahs’ defensive line.
But despite their early failings, the pressure was always going to tell, and Province finally breached the line 56 minutes into the match. They went openside from a scrum close to the touchline and burly winger Sireli Naqelevuki was utilised to punch through the orange wall. De Waal converted to give Province a commanding 19-6 lead.
Free State attempted to counter immediately, but found Province defenders in no mood to surrender an inch. Outside centre Juan de Jongh led the battering with a series of crunching hits. This, despite the fact that he gives up at least 10kg to the majority of the Cheetahs’ backs.
The visitors grew increasingly desperate and this manifested in rudderless attacks that were easily nullified. They had a superb opportunity to score in the 63rd minute, but they failed to remedy their breakdown woes that had marked their play in the first half and surrendered the ball yet again.
They did, however, score a converted try in the 74th minute, setting up a nervy period for Province, but they had neither the tactical intelligence, patience or game breakers to slice through the Province line for the decisive try.
By Ryan Vrede