Cape Town - Western Province have again proved the masters of opportunism when they snatched three first-half tries which provided the sheet anchor for their eventual 31-23 win against the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands on Saturday evening.
The fleet-footed Province fullback Cheslin Kolbe scored two of the three tries and proved the death knell for the visiting Bulls in the end. Province will now host the Golden Lions in next week's final, also at Newlands.
Despite their best efforts, the Bulls did not appear as though they would haul in Province's 15-point half-time lead (25-10) especially as their best attacking efforts were thwarted by the home side's resolute defence.
A second-minute scrum penalty against the Bulls allowed Province to draw first blood when their sharp-shooter flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis goaled from 35 metres out (3-0).
After seeing off a number of Bulls attacks, the ball spun free at a breakdown collision some 15 metres inside Province territory. The ball was recycled to Seabelo Senatla, the Province leftwing, and he sprinted 40 metres down the touchline before he was stopped by the cover defence. However, the Bulls' defence were at loss to prevent a score by fullback Cheslin Kolbe once the ball was faultlessly relayed across the face of the red zone.
Catrakilis' conversion attempt failed but Province held an 8-0 lead after 11 minutes play.
Bulls pivot Jacques-Louis Potgieter reduced the deficit five minutes later with a penalty, but Catrakilis soon restored the 8-point lead with his second penalty (11-3).
At this stage of the match Province eighthman Nizaam Carr suffered a hip injury and he was forced to leave the field. He was replaced by Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
The Bulls try did to mix their attacks with tactical kicks but it Province who fared better in this regard when a grubber kick was collected by their right wing Kobus van Wyk, who fed Kolbe with a timely scoring pass.
Catrakilis added the conversion (18-3).
Province were making the most of limited possession at this stage of the game, and a 37th minute raid into the opposition's 22 metre area paid dividends.
The Bulls were blown up for illegal scrumming and Province number nine Nic Groom took a quick tap quick before darting in to score a converted try (25-3).
Bulls prop Dean Greyling steamrolled his way over for a try almost two minutes after the half-time hooter had sounded. Potgieter, who had earlier missed three goalable kicks, nailed the touchline conversion to round off the first-half score at 25-10, in favour of Province.
After the break, Potgieter banged over two close-range efforts and Catrakilis responded with another in the 49th minute and Provinces lead was narrowed to 28-16.
Catrakilis offered a measure of safety with a drop goal six minutes from the end.
But in the final minute, Bulls reserve prop Callie Visage bulldozed his way over, Handre Pollard added the conversion for a 31-23 scoreline.
Western Province 31 (18): Tries: Cheslin Kolbe (2), Nic Groom; Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (2); Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (3); Drop goal: Catrakilis.
Blue Bulls 23 (3): Tries: Dean Greyling, Callie Visaie; Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter; Handre' Pollard; Penalties: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3)
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk,
13 Juan de Jongh (captain), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Seabelo
Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael
Rhodes, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Pat
Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak
Neil Rautenbach, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 20
Louis Schreuder, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 EW Viljoen
Ulrich Beyers, 14. Akona Ndungane, 13. William Small-Smith, 12. Handrè
Pollard, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9. Rudy Paige,
8. Jono Ross, 7. Jacques du Plessis, 6. Deon Stegmann (captain), 5.
Grant Hattingh, 4. Paul Willemse, 3. Werner Kruger, 2. Bongo Mbonambi
1. Dean Greyling
16. Callie Visagie, 17. Marcel van der Merwe, 18. Nicolaas Janse van
Rensburg, 19. Wiaan Liebenberg, 20. Piet van Zyl, 21. Sampie Mastriet,
22. Jesse Kriel