The unbeaten DHL Western Province edged the Vodacom Blue Bulls 10-6 in a scrappy Vodacom Cup semifinal at DHL Newlands on Saturday to book their place in the final against the Steval Pumas next weekend.
The hosts led 10-3 at halftime, courtesy of an early penalty by Jean-Luc du Plessis and an excellently crafted try by flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe in the 32nd minute which was converted Du Plessis.
Kobus Marais managed a penalty for the visitors in the 18th minute.
The Bulls flyhalf added another penalty in the 61st minute.
The hosts could not add to their scoreline in the second half, which underlines the lack of cohesion, momentum and, particularly, handling accuracy.
The Bulls dominated possession and territory in the first 25 minute of the first half. However, they botched two scoring opportunities through handling errors as Marvin Orie and Wiaan Liebenberg lost the ball forward in favourable positions near the whitewash.
Akone Ndungane’s forward pass to William Small-Smith cost them another possible five-pointer.
Western Province lost three lineouts on their own throw-ins and consequently could not establish an attacking platform from this phase.
They did improve markedly later in the first half through the sound work by Chris van Zyl at No 2.
Notshe drove over from a superb driving lineout maul in the 32nd minute after the hosts had kicked a penalty into touch five metres from the whitewash.
The litany of Bulls mistakes when in promising attacking positions continued in the second half.
Skew throw-ins, handling errors and conceded penalties were at the heart of their malaise.
Flanker Nardus van der Walt lost the ball forward in the build-up to what initially looked like an excellent long-distance try from Ndungane in the 53rd minute.
To add to the visitors’ woes, Marais could not convert three relatively easy chances from the penalty spot, missing the target in the 10th, 44th and 46th minutes.
Notshe and former Springbok centre Jaco Taute made some promising runs for the hosts, who tried valiantly to run the ball wide in trying conditions underfoot.
Du Plessis and Robert du Preez, who replaced him in the second half when he limped off the field with what looked like a hand injury, used their three-quarters in the second half despite the heavy conditions.
Taute created excellent forward momentum for Western Province and asked constant questions of the Bulls’ first line of defence with a number of strong carries.
Before Saturday’s semifinal clash, the two teams had met nine times with the Bulls winning six and Western Province three.
The Newlands-based team won the last encounter between these sides by 16-8 in Pretoria in 2011, according to the www.sarugby.net website.
From a spectator’s point of view, it was a disappointing knockout match between the traditional arch-rivals. Not one of the two teams were able to carry the ball through multiple phases without the inevitable handling errors that marred promising runs.
Bulls midfielders Daniel Kriel and Small-Smith looked full of running when given a sniff, while Liebenberg was a standout performer up front.
DHL WESTERN PROVINCE – Try: Sikhumbuzo Notshe; Conversion: Jean-Luc du Plessis; Penalty: Du Plessis
VODACOM BLUE BULLS – Penalties: Kobus Marais (2),