Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - With matches against Griquas, the Blue Bulls and the Sharks to come, Western Province can feel that they are hitting top form at just the right time.
Coach Allister Coetzee was not completely happy with the 62-10 thumping of the Pumas in Nelspruit. He felt that his men left some try scoring opportunities on the table through poor handling and finishing in the first half.
But Coetzee’s ongoing quest for rugby perfectionism aside, WP had plenty to feel good about, including eight tries at a venue which has been difficult for visiting teams this season and saw a shock defeat for the Blue Bulls a couple of weeks ago.
There was never any doubt WP were going to win the match once they had established early forward dominance, and could easily have been further than just 27-3 up at half-time such was the way they swarmed all over their opponents and just gave them no room to breathe.
What was most pleasing though from a Province viewpoint, apart from the way the pack has rediscovered its hard edge, was the manner in which forwards and backs were able to combine, with the returning Springbok outside backs taking a step up from their performance against the Leopards the previous week.
The midfield of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh were the dominant combination in the match, while Gio Aplon outside them confirmed again just what a special talent he is, with JJ Engelbrecht also joining in the try-scoring act to show that there is plenty of potential coming through from the under-21 ranks.
“Things are coming together nicely for us and it is especially important at this time of the season,” said Coetzee afterwards.
“This is the period when you want to be playing well and putting good performances together. We face three tough games now before hopefully we go into the play-offs, so this is the time when we need to step up our performance. I was very satisfied with the result as the Pumas are always a difficult team to play against when they are at home.”
Coetzee agreed though that against opponents like the Bulls and Sharks his team will need to make better use of the opportunities such as those that were wasted in the first half.
The Bulls are now five points behind second placed WP on the log and the Cheetahs are a point further back. Of those two teams, the Cheetahs, with matches against the Pumas and Lions at home and the Leopards away, have the easiest run-in, so Province would have been pleased that the Bloemfontein side were denied any points by the Sharks.
However, WP will know they need to keep winning to stay in second and if they want to place any pressure on the Sharks in the battle for top spot.