Western Province reached the Currie Cup final for the first time since 2001 following their awe-inspiring 31-7 win over the Free State Cheetahs in their Absa Currie Cup semifinal at a jam-packed Newlands Rugby Stadium on Saturday evening.
They will not, however, be returning to their Newlands fortress for their 2010 championship bid because the Sharks, who defeated the Blue Bulls 16-12 in the other semifinal earlier in the day, will host the final in Durban in a fortnight’s time.
Province last played a Currie Cup final in Durban in 2000 when they defeated the Sharks 25-15.
At the outset, fortune seemed to favour the visiting Cheetahs as they enjoyed an early turn-over and, uncharacteristically, Province flyhalf Willem de Waal missed an achievable penalty kick in the fourth minute.
Three minutes later, however, the Cheetahs’ usually reliable flyhalf, Louis Strydom, also fluffed a penalty.
After 10 minutes of play, neither side managed to grab the initiative, although both teams put together some promising moves which were mostly stifled by handling errors, and the defence at both ends eventually held out for 20 minutes.
But after Free State conceded a 21st minute turn-over, their defence was caught napping down the left flank and winger Bryan Habana darted some 45 metres to dot down the opening try of the match. After De Waal’s conversion, Province opened up a 7-0 lead.
The advance seemed to provide Province with a lift and soon they were again hammering at the Cheetahs’ defence, but their effort was cut short by a dropped pass eight metres from an unprotected tryline.
The Cheetahs managed to shake off the home side’s grip on the match but the Province defence shut them down on two occasions about a metre from the tryline.
In the final five minutes of first-half play, De Waal was on target with two penalties to give Province a commanding 13-0 lead at the break, much to the delight of the majority of the 47 876 spectators.
When Province returned in the second half, they showed a far greater sense of urgency and 16 minutes later they had run up a 24-0 lead.
First De Waal added another two penalties and then flanker Francois Louw rounded off superbly at the corner flag after Province spun the ball wide from a set-scrum 40m out.
Free State’s hearts were finally broken when the hosts’ enterprising play took its toll in the 67th minute and winger Gio Aplon dotted down after latching on to a pass from substitute scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage. De Waal’s conversion made it 31-0.
The Cheetahs scored a consolation try at the death through wing Philip Snyman and substitute flyhalf Sias Ebersohn added the conversion as the visitors finally opened their scoring account.
Scorers: Western Province: Tries: Bryan Habana, Francois Louw, Gio Aplon. Conversions: Willem de Waal (2). Penalties: De Waal (4).
Free State Cheetahs: Try: Philip Snyman. Conversion: Sias Ebersohn. — Sapa