CAPE TOWN – If there’s one thing that must have been particularly disappointing for John Dobson about Western Province’s Currie Cup defeat to the Free State Cheetahs, it’s the way they let a commanding lead go.
During the first half, Province looked good as they built a healthy numerical gap in Bloemfontein on Saturday. At one stage they were 19-0 up, and by halftime the 26-12 scoreline still favoured the 2018 finalists.
But they let it slip in the second half, and the hosts scored six tries in total to WP’s three to secure a 38-33 win and claim top spot on the standings.
After having lost three of their five matches heading into the game, WP needed the win to progress to the semi-finals. Even if they had lost the game, a bonus point and a loss for the Sharks would have been enough. But the Sharks beat the Blue Bulls to book their last-four spot and end WP’s season prematurely.
As a result, the Golden Lions will host Griquas in Johannesburg in the first semi-final this weekend, while the Cheetahs will take on the Sharks in Bloemfontein.
Full-time in Bloemfontein where DHL WP have gone down 38-33 in a nailbiting finish. They pushed hard for the winning try at the end, but the Toyota Free State Cheetahs hold out. #CHEvWP
— WP RUGBY (@WP_RUGBY) August 24, 2019
After the game, Dobson said the Cheetahs had the upper hand in the collisions, while WP’s own exit play let them down.
“We couldn’t get our hands on the ball. It’s disappointing to be 19 points clear and to lose such a vital game,” Dobson said. “Credit to the Cheetahs, I think they dominated us physically. They deserved the win, they deserved to come back.
“Our exits were a problem, and the evolution of our kicking game is a challenge at the union. I also think we need to get our mauling culture stronger, or like it used to be.”
While Dobson was disappointed in the result, he added that it hasn’t been all bad in 2019: “Today equalled our biggest margin of defeat. We haven’t lost a game by more than five points. Every game has gone down to the wire, so I don’t think we must throw everything out.”
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WP skipper and lock Chris van Zyl described the result in the Free State as a career low: “It’s close to a career low point at the moment,” Van Zyl said.
“As good as that first half was, I think we weren’t clinical with our exits, and that kept them in the game. There were two exits that gave them two tries and had we been more effective there they would have gone into halftime questioning themselves.”
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