Inspired by the effervescent former World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Werner Kok, Western Province bounced back from an ignominious defeat at the hands of Pumas last week to score a 55-27 win over Griquas in their Currie Cup clash at Newlands on Saturday evening.
Their display was a huge improvement on last week’s when they tasted a 22-12 defeat in Nelspruit, although this WP side is a far way from roaring a championship challenge.
In ideal playing conditions, both teams looked full of running at the start but the flow of play was punctuated by a plethora of breakdown infringements which resulted in penalties every second minute or so.
Griquas flyhalf George Whitehead was twice on target while his WP counterpart Damian Willemse landed one of two attempts in the opening 10 minutes.
WP were enjoying the major share of the possession up to this stage and they just needed to take the right options to make headway. However, often when a pass was required some WP players tried to go it alone and this made life easier for the Griquas defence.
At a time when WP were building up a head of steam, Griquas right wing Ederies Arendse pulled off an interception on his own 22m and streaked downfield to score the opening try of the match. Whitehead added the extras to open a 13-3 lead for the visiting Griquas in the 13th minute.
This setback was the wake-up call WP needed and they staged a fightback which yielded two tries in the space of seven minutes, and when both were converted they managed to gain the lead for the first time in the match.
First flank Cobus Wiese went over in the 19th minute and then hooker Chad Solomon dotted down after a powerful WP maul from five metres out six minutes later. Willemse was on target with both strikes as WP inched ahead 17-13.
Just ahead of the break, Kok crashed for his side’s third try close to the corner flag and Willemse goalled splendidly from the touchline (24-13). Up to this stage, Kok caught the eye with several determined runs out wide and was far and away the most exciting player on the field.
When the second half play started, Kok had the 8,000-crowd on its feet with a storming run sprung from the base of a loose scrum. As he made his way to the opposition tryline, he left several would-be tacklers floundering in his slipstream. Willemse’s conversions pushed the scoreline out to 31-13.
Then followed a strong spell by Griquas who forced WP to settle for a long period on defence, but they waited a long time for reward which emerged in the 52nd minute when scrumhalf Renier Botha ran in after a tap penalty, 10 metres out. Whitehead added the conversion.
Just before Botha’s try WP was reduced to 14 players after prop Wilco Louw was yellow-carded for dangerous play,
Being 14 players down did not prevent WP from grabbing another five-pointer which came in the 61st minute via a substitute hooker Dean Muir. The crowd were hardly back in their seats when Kok handed the scoring pass to another substitute Johan du Toit.
This time substitute Robert du Preez added the conversion as WP more than doubled their lead, with 12 minutes playing time left .
Griquas inside centre Tertius Kruger produced his side’s highlight with try seven minutes from the end after a powerful run from 30 metres out.
Eric Zana added the conversion.
There was one last hurrah from WP when substitute Caylib Oosthuizen forced his way over twice from close range in the space of three minutes at the death and with one Du Preez conversion on target, WP passed the 50-point mark.
WP 55 (24): Tries: Cobus Wiese, Chad Solomon, Werner Kok (2), Dean Muir, Johan du Toit. Caylib Oosthuizen (2). Conversions: Damian Willemse (4), Robert du Preez (2). Penalty: Willemse
Griquas 27 (13): Tries: Ederies Arendse, Renier Botha, Tertius Kruger. Conversions: George Whitehead (2), Eric Zana. Penalties: Whitehead (2).