It’s the end of the road for coach John Dobson and Western Province in this year’s Currie Cup after they went down 36-30 to the Blue Bulls in the semifinal at Loftus on Saturday.
And while Dobson says the Bulls are deserved winners, his team came close.
The likes of Nizaam Carr and captain Chris van Zyl gave it their all, but Province simply didn’t put enough pressure on the Bulls while on defence, and allowed the hosts to play at them – costing them the match in the end.
Dobson’s players were forced to make a whopping 227 tackles, missing 26 of them, while the Bulls made only 116.
The hierarchy at WP will also have learnt throughout the season that getting a specialist fetcher in ahead of next season is a must, as the Bulls bullied the Cape side in this facet of the game – winning 10 turnovers to Province’s five in the match. Bulls No.6 Roelof Smit was the man that had to be marked and it was him that won the first penalty of the match at the breakdown.
The Bulls opted for touch and from there applied the early pressure on Dobson’s charges.
It took a thumping tackle from Juan de Jongh on Jannes Kirsten to stop the hosts from earning their first try.
But after taking the ball through nine phases, the impressive Burger Odendaal put Travis
Ismaiel away out wide for his team’s first try.
Province, at times, did well at the setpieces. And one of their best rolling mauls of the season took place in the 19th minute when they mauled from a lineout on the Bulls’ 22 for No.8 Nizaam Carr to crash over (7-7).
Carr deserved that five-pointer as he fought hard for his team, and gave them good go-forward ball.
But when you throw everything at the opposition like Carr did, then there will also be a few mistakes.
One of them was when he made a high tackle a few minutes later, to allow Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman to put his team in front (10-7).
Province prop Wilco Louw, meanwhile, had a day to forget – it was a tough outing at scrum time against the Bulls’ Lizo Gqoboka.
It was a scrum penalty that gave Schoeman another shot at goal (13-7).
And then another Schoeman penalty and one by Robert du Preez made it 16-10 at the break for the Bulls.
Straight from the restart, WP hooker Bongi Mbonambi made a big hit on Jannes Kirsten, ultimately leading to a penalty for Province 16-13.
Louw then conceded a penalty to allow the Bulls to stretch their lead.
Province, still in the game, upped the tempo a bit and the pressure they put on the Bulls ultimately led to Van Zyl intercepting a no-look pass from Schoeman, with winger Werner Kok sprinting down the right to give WP a 20-19 lead in a seesaw
Still, it was the Bulls that enjoyed the bulk of the territory. Another Schoeman penalty made it 22-20.
Then when Jan de Klerk barged over for Province with 23 minutes left on the clock, the match was set for a thrilling finish.
The Bulls struck back a few minutes later after a break by winger Jamba Ulengo for Jason Jenkins to ultimately dot down (29-27).
With seven minutes left, Jenkins then turned vilian and conceded a penalty and Du Preez added three points for Province (30-29).
But it was the Bulls who had the last laugh as replacement scrumhalf, Ivan van Zyl, who looked lively when coming on for Springbok Rudy Paige, scored a try two minutes from time to send the Bulls to Bloemfontein for the final against the Free State Cheetahs.
Province coach Dobson was proud of the way his charges performed, but adds: “We defended well, but every now and again there was a small error that gave them [Bulls] momentum.
“I think we did well at setpiece, I think our maul was good… we can’t fault the plan or the players’ efforts.”
Blue Bulls – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Jason Jenkins and Ivan van Zyl; Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3) and Penalties: Schoeman (5).
Western Province – Tries: Nizaam Carr, Werner Kok and Jan de Klerk; Conversions: Robert du Preez (3). Penalties: Du Preez (3)