Cape Town - Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has heaped praise on his charges for holding their composure to beat the Blue Bulls 29-18 despite being a player down in the second half of their Currie Cup match in Pretoria on Saturday.
“You come up to Loftus and you know it is not easy but to do it with 14 men is special and it’s really been an outstanding performance by the players,” Coetzee said.
“Especially in the second half... to stay connected like that, knowing that they have to work extra hard, because you are one man short and to do it at altitude takes a lot out of a team.”
Match referee Marius Jonker showed Province flanker Michael Rhodes a red card after he stepped on Bulls captain Jono Ross’ face in the 34th minute which left the visitors a player short for the rest of the game.
Province remained focused despite the debilitating blow and added a converted try to the score three minutes before the end of the half.
The victory meant the Capetonians stayed unbeaten in the competition after six rounds and cemented their place at the top of the log on 20 points.
A single point separates them from the second-placed Sharks, while the Cheetahs and Golden Lions were in third and fourth place on 16 and 15 points respectively.
The Blue Bulls are in fifth place with 10 log points with Griquas languishing at the bottom on nine.
Coetzee said it was their best second-half performance this season as they got into the habit of taking the foot off the throttle in this period in their previous matches.
“Normally we would sort of let a lead slip but this time around ironically with 14 men we actually upped it,” he said.
“The composure that was there and just cutting out soft moments in the game by not conceding unnecessary penalties.”
Province’s scrum was particularly influential in laying the foundation for their impressive victory over the Bulls.
“This was always going to be a set-piece display and to scrum the way we scrummed tonight with one forward short was very pleasing,” Coetzee said.
“We had a great scrumming performance since the Sharks game last weekend and we improved on that with seven forwards holding their own against a good Bulls scrum.”
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar was left baffled by the way his charges let the match slip despite having a one-man advantage for a large portion of the match.
Pienaar nevertheless commended Province for a sterling performance to walk away with the victory.
“I am unhappy with the performance, so well done to Province, they played extremely well and fought for 45 minutes with 14 men,” Pienaar said.
“That is probably one of the best performances from a team with 14 men that I have seen in a long time.
“At the end they were the better side and not to beat around the bush, we were not good enough.
The Bulls mentor was particularly scathing of some of his senior players’ inability to take the lead and absorb the pressure.
“Here and there the senior players are not finding their feet, which bothers me,” he said.
“I understand if a guy that is 20-years-old makes the wrong decision under pressure, but if there are guys that have played Super 15 and are experienced that are making wrong decisions I am not happy with that.
“What happened tonight is inexcusable, granted Province played really well.”
Pienaar said the defeat meant their match against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg next weekend was effectively a final as another loss could render their campaign in tatters with no chance of making the playoffs.
WP next face Griquas at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.