Several players who learned their rugby in the North-West province returned to torment their old union as Western Province powered to a 42-23 win over the Leopards at Olen Park in Potchefstroom on Friday night.
WP, who remain the only unbeaten team in the Absa Currie Cup, led 23-6 at half time, and it was in that opening 40 minutes that the North-West old boys club made the biggest contribution, with two of the three try-scorers, Brok Harris and Paul Bosch, both being players who spent some of their formative rugby years in Potchefstroom.
So too did former Cheetahs star Willem de Waal, who added the points with his boot and played a big part in setting up the territorial ascendancy that set the Cape men on the road to what was an impressive six-try-to-three win which was a lot more one-sided than the final scoreline might suggest.
It was only a late brace of tries, one of them a Jovan Bowles intercept and another a good chase down from wing Deon Scholtz, that made the final scoreline appear that this was a competitive game.
Not that the Leopards were poor. Far from it, they played some excellent rugby at times and the big occasion atmosphere provided by a larger than usual Olen Park crowd appeared to spur them on.
However, WP were always significantly the better team, and there was an air of inevitability about this bonus point win from the moment they established early territorial dominance with their excellent kicking game.
The WP pack was also good, ensuring that a steady stream of possession came their way, only the Leopards’ ability to slow the ball down preventing Province from taking a more commanding lead at the break.
The five-log-point win was what Anton Van Zyl’s men needed to ensure they will end round three safely ensconced at the top of the Currie Cup log as the maximum haul of points means they cannot be overtaken by any of the teams in action on Friday.
While two seasons ago WP slipped up in a similar match against the Falcons in Brakpan, from the outset of this game it was clear they were not going to repeat the mistake. The WP forwards dominated, but it was by winning the kicking exchange that they set up the first try, with the Leopards being pinned back by kicks until eventually there was a poor clearance that was seized upon by Duane Vermeulen.
The big No 8 was WP’s most impressive player on the night, and he featured in several WP try-scoring movements. But his role in the first one was less direct -- a strong run from him set up the lineout deep inside Leopards territory, and it was from this good field position that WP were able to apply the pressure which eventually led to Brok Harris going over near the posts.
The next try was more obviously set up by Vermeulen, who made the initial thrust before the ball was spun down the line for left wing Frikkie Welsh, coming across to the right, to take the gap and score near the corner flag.
There was another try on the stroke of the break, with several waves of WP attack eventually setting up a close flat-passing movement that sent centre Paul Bosch in. After that it really was a formality, and the ever increasing gap on the scoreboard enabled Coetzee to ring the changes and give the reserves a run.
The fourth try, the one that secured the bonus point, came three minutes into the second half, Van Zyl comfortably taking a ball at the back of an attacking lineout for the pack to drive over, flanker Pieter Louw completing the dot down.
Conrad Hoffmann made an immediate impact when he came on at the unfamiliar position of fullback, being pulled up just short of the line with his first touch and crossing out wide for the fifth WP try with his second.
WP - Tries: Brok Harris, Frikkie Welsh, Paul Bosch, Pieter Louw, Conrad Hoffmann, Pieter Myburgh; Conversions: Willem de Waal 3; Penalties: Willem de Waal 2.
Leopards – Tries: Deon Scholtz 2 and Jovan Bowles; Conversion: Jean Tiedt ; Penalty: Jean Tiedt; Drop-goal: Neill Jacobs.