SP Marais and scrum key as WP edge Blue Bulls
Western Province fullback SP Marais delivered two crucial moments of brilliance to ensure his side did enough to beat the Blue Bulls 20-5 in their Currie Cup opener at Newlands on Saturday.
Midway through the second half Marais made a brilliant tackle when faced with flyer Rosko Specman in a one-on-one situation.
The turbo-charged former Blitzbok has shredded most defenders in that situation, but Marais read Specman’s step and cut him down in a fine tackle with the game in the balance.
But the fullback wasn’t done as he intercepted Specman’s offload in one move to snuff out the attack.
And then with 16 minutes to go Marais landed a 52-metre penalty to take WP two scores ahead, which was enough to see the home team through.
Replacement wing Craig Barry scored a third WP try after the hooter to add to earlier tries from centre Ruhan Nel and No 8 Juarno Augustus, which gave the final score the gloss they perhaps didn’t deserve on the balance of play.
The Bulls were left to ponder how they lost a match that they dominated in most departments.
The Bulls had most of the possession, more territory and they hassled WP’s lineout, which resulted in the home team losing four throws.
But despite all their dominance, the Bulls couldn’t break down a rigid WP defence through a combination of their own impatience and WP’s tenacity.
The only area where WP held a clear advantage was in the scrum, which resulted in four penalties for the home team. Tighthead Wilco Louw reminded Bok coach Rassie Erasmus of his worth, as did replacement replacement Carlu Sadie when he came on.
Those infringements cost the Bulls valuable momentum and allowed WP to make the most of the scraps they sniffed out.
In the first half Nel scored after a brief period where the home team built some pressure through phases, to level the scores after Bulls’ scrumhalf Embrose Papier’s long-range try.
Papier’s score was from a turnover inside his own 22, but it was also a microcosm of the way the Bulls tried to play. They carved out several line breaks through their ambitious approach, only to botch the good work at a later stage.
For the opening seven minutes of the second half WP couldn’t escape their own 22-metre area but they Bulls failed to take advantage of the pressure they applied.
Eventually WP fashioned a way into Bulls territory and Augustus scored when he scooped the ball up at full pace close to the Bulls line. It caught the visitors’ defence out and gave WP the lead for the first time in the match.
It was a lead they would not relinquish again as the Bulls kept pounding away.
Western Province 20 (5)
Blue Bulls 5 (5)
WP – Tries: Ruhan Nel, Juarno Augustus, Craig Barry. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalty: Marais
Blue Bulls – Try: Embrose Papier.