Cape Town – Western Province shrugged off the relegation/promotion play-off threat with a runaway 36-15 win over the Free State Cheetahs in their Currie Cup match at Newlands in Cape Town, on Saturday.
The five-try victory, which earned WP a bonus point, ensured that the Cape side a semi-final clash after finishing third in the Currie Cup standings.
WP will play the Golden Lions, who were set to take on the Blue Bulls in Johannesburg following the WP/Cheetahs clash, in the first semi-final.
The Free State Cheetahs will know their fate once the Lions and Bulls complete their tie.
WP started out adventurously, with regular visits into the Cheetahs half.
The Cheetahs defence stood its ground but conceded a third minute penalty which WP flyhalf Demetri Catrakalis scored.
The early Province pressure took its toll in the 9th minute when their skipper Jean de Villiers rounded-off a backline move to score an unconverted try in the corner.
The Cheetahs managed to shake off WP's grip on the match with counter-attacks from their own half and one nearly paid dividends but their wing Raymond Rhule was denied by a try-saving tackle from WP centre Juan de Jongh.
Shortly after, the Cheetahs did manage to open their scoring account when winger Nico Scheepers goaled a 35 metre penalty.
Meanwhile, Province's enterprising play reaped rewards as the first half closed by which time WP had run up a handy 22-3 lead.
Lock Andries Bekker scored, after a lengthy television match official decision, followed by flanker Deon Fourie, who crashed over from the back of a driving maul, three minutes before the break.
The Cheetahs had early second-half opportunities to impose themselves on the game but they kept running into a solid WP defence.
Once WP absorbed the pressure they, bounced back with a 51st minute converted try by Fourie, his second of the match.
The 26-point margin prompted WP to make several substitutions, one of which was Gio Aplon, who replaced Bryan Habana.
On the hour mark, WP stretched their lead further with a converted try by eighthman Duane Vermeulen.
Despite the mounting scoreline, the Cheetahs refused to let up.
Instead, they kept plugging away and held the upper hand in the final 10 minutes of the match.
The Free State side finished the match stronger, with flanker Francois Uys crashing over, before Philip Snyman dotted down just ahead of the final whistle. – Sapa