Western Province clocked up another convincing victory over the Blue Bulls in the final game of the SA Rugby Craven Week at Grey College at the weekend.
Province, the only unbeaten side in the 18-team tournament, beat the Bulls 56-31. It is the second year in a row that the Cape side has ended as the top side at the annual showpiece hosted by the Free State Rugby Union, whose team were deemed to be the one to beat but could only muster a single win from three matches.
The two red cards picked up in the defeat to WP (51-14), both deserved as a result of cynical play, left the Cheetahs licking their wounds. They loaded their 23-man squad with 17 players from unbeaten Grey College — the number one team in the unofficial national rankings — but there was no reward.
Was it a case of overconfidence that led to their demise in a bid for a place in the unofficial final for the first time since 2011? Yes.
As for Province, the boys in blue and white hoops scored over 50 points in each of their three wins and crossed the tryline 23 times.
Kade Wolhuter converted all eight conversions against the Bulls and was the star performer for his side. It is no surprise that the Paul Roos youngster has been signed by French Club Montpelier on a three-year deal.
“He’s going to be a young man to keep an eye out for in the coming years,” said WP assistant coach Clinton van Rensburg. “He’s the complete package and will only get better with time at Montpellier. His reading of the game is top notch, he can go it alone and break defences with his pace and his passing most times puts his outside backs into space.”
Wolhuter had a fine scrumhalf in captain Bobby Alexander whose small frame, and pace and eye for the gap, proved to be a constant menace for opposing packs. “The hardest worker in our squad, said Van Rensburg. “Here we have a youngster who wants to make something of his life and is headed in the right direction.”
A number of other WP players — forwards and backs — excelled as well and caught the attention of the national selectors.
Eighthman Gideon van Wyk played like a man possessed, especially against the Cheetahs, while Allister Williams and Rhynardt Rijnsburger (props) were always in the thick of things in the tight engagements.
Romaud Ntumba and Pierich Siebert (flankers) were always on the ball at the breakdowns, delivered bone-crunching tackles on defence and on the charge proved hard to peg back.
Centres Tyler Bocks and Adriaan Horn caught the eye with their line breaks and defensive skills, while livewire fullback Tharquinn Manuel thrilled friends and foe with his speed and flair.
The process for selecting the SA Schools team will differ from previous years. A larger squad will be announced shortly and will fight it out at trials for places in the team.