Western Province completed an impressive 36-15 victory over the Cheetahs at Newlands to secure their Currie Cup semi-final spot.
Western Province completed a comprehensive 36-15 victory over the Cheetahs at Newlands to secure their place in the Currie Cup semi-finals.
Bolstered by seven returning Springboks, the men in blue proved far too strong for their opponents on the day, running in five tries in all, including two to Deon Fourie.
The Cheetahs finally managed to secure some possession in the dying stages of the game and scored two late tries to bring some semblance of respectability to the scoreline, but a relegation battle with First Division champs EP Kings is now on the cards for the men from the Free State.
Province always looked a much stronger team on paper with the likes of captain Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Eben Etzebeth, Andries Bekker, Duane Vermeulen and Tiaan Liebenberg returning from Bok duty, and the visiting Cheetahs struggled to cope with a dominant home side for the majority of the game.
Fly-half Demetri Catrakilis opened the scoring for Province in the third minute with a penalty kick after Marcel van der Merve led with his arm in the tackle.
Full-back Joe Pietersen missed a long range penalty effort only moments later, but it did not take long for the home side to start to assert their superiority.
Taking the ball up from the halfway line, Province put multiple phases together before Pietersen put De Villiers into space in the corner with an accurate long pass.
De Villiers only had winger Nico Scheepers to beat and he fended him off successfully to dot down in the corner for Province's first try.
The Cheetahs then responded in the 20th minute with a successful penalty kick from Scheepers after Habana was adjudged to not have released the player in the tackle.
Only a few minutes later, however, prop Coenie Oosthuizen was forced to leave the field with an injury, to be replaced by Ross Geldenhuys – a switch that would end up causing plenty of problems for the visitors in the scrums.
When Deon Fourie spilled the ball right on the opposition try-line in the 27th minute, Western Province were awarded a penalty from the ensuing five-meter scrum and De Villiers took it quickly and passed it to Bekker, who powered over the line amid plenty of attention from several Cheetahs players for the home side's second try.
With only minutes to go till half-time, the Cheetahs were again penalised in the scrum, as the replacement Geldenhuys seemed to be struggling.
Province kicked to touch and Bekker set up a driving maul from the throw-in, which the Cheetahs were unable to prevent from crossing their try-line as Fourie scored his first try of the match from the back of the maul.
After half-time, Western Province continued from where they left off, piling on the pressure through their forwards in open play, and in the 50th minute Fourie burst through several tackles from close to the line to pick up his second try.
Minutes later, Catrikilis was nearly over for WP's fifth try, but he was held up over the line.
Province kept up the relentless pressure from the ensuing five-meter scrum, however, and after a couple of phases the ball went out to Vermeulen, who was not going to be stopped that close to the line, the eighth man dotting down right under the posts for Province's fifth try.
Only in the last quarter of the match did the home side take their foot off the pedal as the Cheetahs finally managed to get some rhythm and continuity in their play.
After a long period of sustained pressure for the visitors, loose rower Francois Uys wiggled through several tackles to pick up the first try for the Cheetahs in the 77th minute, and shortly after that Phillip Snyman crossed the line right for the second Cheetahs five-pointer as the final whistle blew.
For Province, an away semi-final against the Lions in Johannesburg was now a certainty, while the Cheetahs would have to count on the Lions beating the Bulls comprehensively to avoid a relegation play-off with the EP Kings.
For Western Province:
Tries: De Villiers, Bekker, Fourie 2, Vermeulen
Cons: Catrikilis 4
Tries: Uys, Snyman
Cons: De Bruyn
Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Brok Harris, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Marcel Brache, 22 Gio Aplon.
Free State Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan