The Armchair Critic eats humble pie
I've been quite harsh on Western Province over the past few weeks - giving them less and less chance of retaining their Currie Cup title with each passing week. Too often Province have produced the most dire rugby in the second half, upsetting the most hardened WP fan, and allowing the streeptruie to throw away convincing first half leads. These have led to either close, nail-biting wins or missing potential bonus points or even draws.
This past weekend however, Province showed that they have the character to defend their title as they overcame a first-half red card to beat bitter rivals the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld and retain their lead at the top of the log.
Province starved the Bulls of possession and almost completely dominated the first half, like they've done in most of their games this season.
Flyhalf Kurt Coleman's accurate goal kicking again laid the foundation for Province to build towards another win and remain unbeaten. Coleman has secured himself that number 10 jersey, but with Demetri Catrakilis fit and possibly available for selection this coming weekend, he may have to give it up. In my opinion it will be a travesty, as Coleman's done nothing wrong and has improved with each passing week. If I were Allister Coetzee, I'd stick with Coleman.
Currie Cup player of the month for August, Cheslin Kolbe showed immense maturity and skill to set up WP's second try and the streeptruie were fast looking like champions elect.
Following that dominant showing at Loftus, it'll be hard not to back Province to win the Currie Cup back to back like they did in 2000 and 2001.
At the other end of the table, the pressure is surely mounting on the Blue Bulls and their coach Pine Pienaar.
The Bulls have only won two of their six matches and trail the Cape side by 10 points and the dark clouds are hanging over the Union Buildings, because something's definitely amiss in the capital.
On Saturday they looked outplayed at fortress Loftus with nothing really going their way. Even flyhalf Handrē Pollard struggled with his goal kicking and the team squandered a number of try-scoring opportunities.
With only four round-robin matches remaining, the Bulls will need to turn the tide soon or risk battling it out in the promotion-relegation playoffs with the winner of the Currie Cup First Division come the end of the season.
Down in Kimberley - the Sharks close win over Griquas keeps the pressure on WP as they look like the two sides most likely to contest the final again this year. The Sharks are churning out the wins, much like WP are. They too are slowly finding that balance between attack and defence and are probably the only ones, other than WP, that deserve to end the season on top of the log. Like the Bulls, Griquas are flirting with possible relegation, as the men from Kimberley still battle to add to their solitary win over the Sharks in the first week of the competition.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the Lions are the best attacking side in the competition. Again this past weekend they almost came back from 23-3 down at half time, to steal a win. The Lions play amazing rugby in the second half each week. They completely dominate teams after the break, by starving them of possession and territory. They need to play that kind of rugby over 80 minutes in order to be considered as title contenders.
For now, Western Province and the Sharks are the two best, well rounded teams in the competition and as the season progresses, they look more and more likely to compete in this season's Currie Cup final.