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23 Sep 2007 08:31
The battered and bruised bodies of 22 Western Province (WP) players bore witness on Saturday to an exceptional 34-20 Currie Cup victory for the home side over Free State, who had not been beaten in 14 matches.
After losing to the Free State Cheetahs 45-13 earlier this season and going down to the Bulls last weekend in disappointing fashion, the blue-and-white jerseys gave the Newlands faithful a spectacle that will be remembered for quite some time.
The home side was ruthless in the tackle situation, clinical at the ruck and kept unrelenting pressure on the visiting team.
The match started well for the visitors. Free State opened the scoring with a Willem de Waal drop goal.
A further De Waal penalty was to be all the points the visitors would get during the first 40 minutes.
Lock Francois van der Merwe scored WP’s first try following a great line break by fullback Conrad Jantjes.
The match was slightly spoiled by the number of penalties and cards referee Pro Legoete handed out. At the end of the first half, the penalty count was 16-4 against Free State.
WP started the second half perfectly. From the kick-off, they stayed in Free State’s half. Following a line break by winger Corne Uys, scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann sent a pinpoint pass wide to Breyton Paulse, who went over in the corner for WP’s second try four minutes into the half.
Grant slotted a further penalty and along with Hoffman kept the visitors pinned inside their own half.
Free State prop Ollie le Roux and flanker Kabamba Floors gave the Free State some much-needed momentum. The referee, though, handed out another yellow card, this time to WP lock Van der Merwe for a punch. Free State kicked the penalty to touch, aiming for a try.
Free State line-out supremo Corniel van Zyl lost the ball on WP’s goal line and Hoffmann kicked the ball downfield. WP’s captain, Schalk Brits, followed up quickly and put huge pressure on the Free State backs, which led to the ball being lost.
The ball was kicked through and after a scintillating break, Paulse put away Uys for WP’s third try. After 60 minutes the Currie Cup leaders were still tryless, and 28 points behind.
Free State had no idea how to react to the passion the home side displayed. With 10 minutes to go, the usually solid Van Zyl lost another line-out ball on the WP goal line, further adding to Free State’s frustrations.
To add insult to injury, Free State lost a second player to a yellow card. Le Roux was sent off to a booing Newlands grand stand for stamping on Van der Merwe.
Free State finally crossed for their first try six minutes from full-time, with flanker Duane Vermeulen breaking through the WP defence. Shortly afterwards, hooker Jaco du Toit added a second try for Free State.
The performance by WP’s former Under-19 Springbok scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann was top class. Man-of-the-match De Wet Barry also put in a solid performance.
For Free State, the loss may have been a blessing in disguise. As coach Naka Drotske said at the post-match conference: “We had to lose sometime, and I’d rather it happened today than in the semifinal.”—Sapa
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