Cape Town - Few would deny that up-tempo Western
Province, last year’s runners-up, look favourites for the 2014 Currie Cup title
at this point.
There is every chance that at the midway
turn in ordinary-season play next weekend, they will only have consolidated
their position at the top of the table and remain the only side with a 100
percent win record from five matches.
That is because Friday night at Newlands
sees a clash between the leaders and the EP Kings, currently the wooden-spoon
outfit with a mere one point – it would be a real turn-up for the books if the
visitors come away victorious.
As things stand after an encouragingly
high-quality round four, Province have a three-point cushion over the
second-placed Lions, who restored winning ways with a comprehensive enough
41-22 triumph over the Kings in Port Elizabeth, even if the willing Kings were in
the picture for generous periods.
Juan de Jongh’s side overcame a tough
hurdle by seeing off an improved Blue Bulls side by five points in a
thrill-a-minute Loftus spectacle: the 2-2 statistic in the try column tells you
everything about the ding-dong nature of the clash.
The Capetonians will mark the win down as a
satisfying achievement, even if the Bulls weren’t exactly a form team going
into it – remember they had not yet been beaten either in Super Rugby or the
Currie Cup at Loftus this year.
The home side were always in the contest,
occasionally giving WP some angst at scrum-time and making good yardage through
committed ball-carriers like Dean Greyling, Jacques du Plessis and Grant
But the blue-and-whites maintained their new-found
prowess for striking lethally and with relish from just about any position on
Their two tries were absolute beauties and
it was fitting that they went to two members of their majestic back three, the whippet-like
talent Seabelo Senatla and emerging right wing powerhouse Kobus van Wyk.
But if Province are probably going to be
sitting very pretty at the halfway point next weekend, they cannot afford any
complacency if they wish to retain that log-topping status to the knockout phase.
Their “second half” itinerary is arguably
more landmine-infested than the first, given that three of the five fixtures
will be away, and two of them are genuine toughies against the Lions and Pumas
The former clash is the sort that might
just see the table lead change hands, if the Lions can avenge their Newlands
loss recently, whilst the Pumas, unbeaten at Mbombela Stadium, reminded
strongly on Friday night that they have absolutely no respect for reputation as
they knocked over the defending champion Sharks with a bonus point into the
WP also still have to face the Sharks at
Newlands on the final day of ordinary season, a repeat in many respects of last
season’s final when the visitors seized back the silverware from their great
Jimmy Stonehouse’s Pumas occupy a notably
lofty third on the log at present, although if there is one tempering factor –
something to interest sides from the lower regions like the Bulls and Cheetahs
– it is that they have played only one match away from their fortress thus far
so will spend much of the next few weeks on the road (four of six remaining
The fourth-placed Sharks will expect to
bounce back from the Nelspruit humbling by seeing off still-winless Griquas at
Kings Park on Saturday.
But are they properly addressing the
relative impotence of their ball-in-hand play, something that has arguably
spilled over from the closing stages of their once-budding Super Rugby 2014
Coach Brad Macleod-Henderson seemed a
little intransigent on that front in his post-game assessment on Friday, being
quoted as saying: “Our set-piece struggled a bit and our defence was probably
not where we would have liked it to be ... those two areas we will be working
hard with during the week.”
One or two others needing “TLC” do come to
weekend’s fixtures (home teams first):
Friday, September 5
Western Province v EP Kings - 19:10
Saturday, September 6
Free State Cheetahs v
Pumas - 15:00
Sharks v Griquas - 17:05
Blue Bulls v Golden Lions - 19:10
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing