Bloemfontein - Flyhalf Robert du Preez played a key role as DHL Western Province
remained unbeaten in the Vodacom Cup with a 30-29 (halftime 17-3)
victory over the Toyota Free State XV at the Free State Stadium in
Bloemfontein on Saturday.
According to the supersport.com website, the Western Province pivot played a vital role in two of the visitor’s
three tries as the men from Cape Town desperately hung on for one-point
win that extended their lead at the top of the South Section log to six
points and guarantee their place at the summit with just one league
Free State picked up two points for finishing within seven points and
scoring four tries two move into second place on the log, two points
above Griquas, who started later against the Cell C Sharks XV in
The visitors started strongly and were on the board after just six
minutes with their first try through inside centre, Kyle Lombard. WP had
a strong maul from a lineout but Free State were penalised for being
offsides. Scrumhalf Godlin Masimla took a quick-tap penalty and fed
Lombard who raced through from 10 metres to open the scoring. Du Preez
converted to hand the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Du Preez then started his magic after both sides traded penalties. Free
State Flyhalf, Niel Marais launched a clearance kick from inside his
22-metre area with Du Preez fielding the ball inside his own half. The
tall pivot then danced past some defenders before feeding Tshotsho
Mbovane on the left wing. The speedster beat one defender and then
passed the ball back to Du Preez before taking the return pass and burst
through the defence to score under the poles with Du Preez converting
to hand WP a handy 17-3 lead.
Free State’s handling let them down in the first stanza with the home
side knocking the ball on in good positions but did produce some good
defence to keep the WP maul out on a number of occasions.
Du Preez began the second half with a penalty after just two minutes to
extend the lead to 17 points but replacement lock, Henco Venter, burst
over the WP tryline after a Free Sate maul was stopped just short of the
tryline 10 minutes after the break, shortly after referee Jason Jafta
had sent the WP captain, Chris van Zyl, to the sin-bin. Marais converted
to reduce the deficit to 10 points.
Despite being a man down, Province produced some magic through Du Preez,
who again fielded an attempted clearance from Free State. The flyhalf
claimed the ball on the halfway line and moved the ball upfield before
offloading in the tackle to EW Viljoen. The WP fullback then jinked past
a few defenders to score the visitor’s third try under the poles. Du
Preez converted to restore the 17-point lead.
But with 20 minutes remaining, the hosts began to hold onto the ball
better and the results showed. With Free State on the attack, WP were
penalised for being offside and a quick-tap penalty was taken with the
ball being shifted to the left side of the field. Tighthead prop Teunis
Nieuwoudt produced the skills of a centre as he dummied the Province
defence and went over near the left-hand corner. Marais converted again
to bring the hosts to within 10 points.
Du Preez slotted his third penalty of the afternoon five minutes later
but that was the last time WP would trouble the scorers as the home side
looked to produce a fairytale comeback. With just five minutes
remaining on the clock, Maphutha Dolo scored the host’s third try in the
left-hand corner after some silky skills from the Free State backline
after WP had lost their own line-out with Van Zyl knocking the ball on.
But Noel Marx, who replaced Marais, missed the conversion from the
touchline which proved to be vital in the final outcome of the game. The
hosts refused to give up and continued to attack the WP tryline and the
pressure finally told as Free State flanker, Reuben Johannes went over
in the left-hand corner as the hooter sounded for the end of the game.
Marx converted the try but it was a little too late.
The two points the Free State picked up could be vital in the final
standings as Free State travel to Kimberley next week to face off
against the Griquas and the winner of that match will end second on the
log and potentially have an easier match in the quarterfinals.
Toyota Free State XV – Tries: Henco Venter, Teunis Nieuwoudt, Maphutha Dolo, Reuben Johannes; Conversions: Neil Marais (2), Noel Marx; Penalties: Marais (1).
DHL Western Province – Tries: Kyle Lombard, Tshotsho Mbovane, EW Viljoen; Conversions: Robert du Preez (3); Penalties: Du Preez (3).