Vodacom Western Province played some irresistible rugby at Newlands on Saturday to subdue the Free State Cheetahs 31-7 in an Absa Currie Cup semifinal to book a place in the final against the Natal Sharks in Durban in two weeks' time.
WP led 13-0 at halftime in front of 47 876 spectators and were full value for their victory. The foundation for the win was laid yet again by the pack. They stood their ground in the set scrums against the highly rated Cheetahs front row, were competent in the lineout and made live very difficult for the visitors at the breakdown.
The backline could thrive on the good quality possession they received and Gio Aplon, Conrad Jantjes, Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers could show off their exquisite attacking talent. They at times had the defence in sixes and sevens and although WP scored three tries, they know that it could have been two or three more.
The defence yet again was rock-solid and the Cheetahs were driven back time and again by the resolute home defensive lines.
Province had the first chance to get the scoreboard going, but the normally dependable Willem de Waal missed an entirely kickable attempt at goal. The Cheetahs also had an easy chance for 3 points, but flyhalf Louis Strydom fluffed the kick in the 7th.
The Cheetahs were desperately unlucky not to score in the 16th min. after building great pressure on the home defence. The movement came a cropper though when No 8 Ashley Johnson could not get his pass out to a teammate on the outside and spilled the ball forward - much to the relief of the home team and their supporters.
Wing Bryan Habana scored the first try of the match in the 21st minute after showing two defenders a clean pair of heels.
The try came as a result of good work by lock Adriaan Fondse, who wrestled the ball away from Cheetahs scrumhalf Tewis de Bruyn in a tackle before sending a flying Habana away.
De Waal converted and the Newlands faithful had reason to start singing. Just two minutes later Province threatened to score again after another Habana surge down the left-hand side touchline. Hooker Deon Fourie could not hang on to a difficult pass though and the opportunity went a begging.
The Cheetahs then turned the screws on the defence and took the ball through 12 phases before WP flank Francois Louw was penalised for not releasing the ball carrier 5m from his try-line. Strydom again failed with the kick at goal in the 32nd min.
De Waal made Cheetahs flank Hendro Scholtz pay for a rush of blood in the 33rd min. when he tackled Habana after the latter knocked on the ball and the referee already blew his whistle (10-0). He added three more just before halftime with a penalty from 54m out. De Waal showed what a prodigious kicking talent he is when he slotted another 50m penalty in the 44th min to make the score 13-0. Ricky Januarie left the field to make way for Dewaldt Duvenage at scrumhalf.
The Cheetahs sent Kabamba Floors on in place of Hendro Scholtz. WP showed just how potent they could be on the attack in the 48th min. when they tore the defence apart. Captain Schalk Burger threw an amazing pass to Jean de Villiers who sent Louw away. The big flank had to beat a defender before sliding over to send the crowd into seventh heaven. De Waal's conversion narrowly missed.
He, however, atoned for that by slotting a penalty in the 56th minute to make the score 24-0. Habana showed he was back to his devastating best when he ripped the defence apart in the 66th min. before kicking ahead and collecting to send Gio Aplon away to score. De Waal converted to make it game, set and match at 31-0.
Province then sent on a host of substitutes and one of them, Lionel Cronjé, flung out a wild pass that enabled right wing Philip Snyman to score the Cheetahs only try of the match with four minutes left on the clock.
Vodacom WP - Tries: Bryan Habana, Francois Louw, Gio Aplon; Conversions: Willem de Waal (2); Penalties: Willem de Waal (4).
Vodacom Free State Cheetahs - Try: Philip Snyman; Conversion: Sias Ebersohn.