Western Province, the reigning Currie Cup champions, were held to an exciting 24-all draw in their season's pipe-opener against the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday evening.
Province produced an adventurous first-half display which saw them score twice in the opening 20 minutes. Their team struck up excellent cohesion, resulting in fine inter-play between backs and forwards.
The Bulls, however, produced excellent passages of play in the second half, especially at the death when they denied the hosts a near-certain win.
The Bulls' early sortie into Western Province's half was cut short after they were penalised twice in the opening four minutes for scrum infringements.
Province used the advantage to transfer play into their opponents' 22-metre area, where they looked full of running and purpose. Their fullback Gio Aplon opened the scoring in the match with a ninth minute try, which was converted by flyhalf Gary van Aswegen (7-0).
Just after Bulls flyhalf Tony Jantjies struck a penalty, there was more of the same from Province, with Patrick Howard scoring -- this time with a converted try in the 20th minute (14-3).
Jantjies reduced the deficit, in the 20th minute, with a second penalty at a time when the Bulls staged a promising fightback (14-6).
However, once WP absorbed the pressure, the Bulls were again under the cosh as the halftime break loomed. WP probably left two tries out on the Newlands turf by the time they retreated to the change-rooms.
The Bulls were vastly transformed when they returned from the break as they made all the play in the opening 10 minutes.
Their sustained pressure was easily worth a try but they spoilt their best effort with a forward pass with the tryline at their mercy. There was a consolation prize, however, as Jantjies goaled a third penalty from close-range (14-9).
The minor setback, which reduced the lead to five points, stung WP into attacking mode and they pulled off a series of moves which earned the hosts their third converted try.
Flank Nizaam Carr stalked into the backline before streaking past the Bulls' defence to score next to the posts just on the hour (21-9).
The Bulls stormed back and managed to pin WP down in their 22-metre area where the home side's defence had remained rock solid, until they allowed centre Francois Venter to streak in at the corner for his team's first try in the 67th minute. Jantjies converted splendidly from the corner (21-16).
In the final 10 minutes of play, Jantjies had two penalty strikes, one of which he made good and with four minutes of play left, the result was balanced on a knife edge.
Van Aswegen seemed to put the result beyond doubt with a penalty until Bulls' substitute Jean Cook rounded off a counter-attack with an unconverted try in the corner.
Final Score Bulls 24 Western Province 24
Tries: Gio Aplon, Patrick Howard, Nizaam Carr
Conversions. Gary van Aswegen (3)
Penalty: Van Aswegen.
Tries: Francois Venter, Jean Cook
Conversion: Tony Jantjies.
Penalties: Jantjies (4).