Two cynical red cards to the Free State's Jan-Hendrik Wessels (lock) and Ricardo Fourie (flanker) took the hosts out of the contest in the main match of the fourth day of the 56th annual Craven Week at Grey College in Bloemfontein against Western Province. It was the first red card to Wessels in the 14th minute that caused the most pain and suffering. Western Province won the match with ease by 51-14.
Wessels stomped on a player of Western Province's knee and received a red card from referee, Christopher Alliston, after consulting with the TMO, Lourens van der Merwe. The score was 7-0 at this stage thanks to an early try by the magnificent scrumhalf, Bobby Alexander. The Free State also had to play without their inspirational captain and eighthman, George Cronjé.
The Free Staters lack of discipline might have been influenced by Cronjé's absence. Fourie got red carded after performing a neck-roll and the visitor's player landed on his head. If Wessels and Fourie is found guilty after their hearing they won't be playing on Saturday. Free State will also not be able to replace them in their squad.
This victory would without a doubt have booked Western Province a place in the main match of the tournament on Saturday. They are the unofficial defending champions after defeating the Sharks by 47-8 in last year's main match in Paarl.
Alexander's performance was the best so far by any player at this year's tournament. He supplies his flyhalf, Kade Wolhuter, with excellent service and his support play isn't rivaled at the Craven Week. Wolhuter can also feel happy with his performance, while the centre Quan Horn impressed with his direct running.
In the pack of forwards Rynhardt Rijnsburger (prop), Dylan de Leeuw (lock), Pierich Siebert (flanker) and Gideon van Wyk (Nr.8) deserve a tap on the shoulder for their performances. De Leeuw was yellow carded for tapping the ball down with the Free State on attack.
For the Free State their lock Sisonke Vumazonke and hooker, André-Hugo Venter never stopped playing. Outside centre and stand-in captain, Ian Small-Smith, produced a couple of opportunities for his side on attack.
Western Province 51 (20) - Tries: Bobby Alexander (2), Pierich Siebert, Rynardt Rijnsburger, Gideon van Wyk, Ntumba, Dylan de Leeuw. Conversions: Kade Wolhuter (5). Penalties: Wolhuter (2). Free State 14 (0) - Tries: Sisonke Vumazonke, 14. Conversions: Juan-Dee Olivier (2).
South Western Districts 39 (33) - Tries: Blake Morgan, Corné Rahl, Abré' Minnie, Caston Michaels. Conversions: Alwich van der Linde (3). Penalties: Matthew Thorn, Van der Linde. Sharks 31 (5) - Tries: Ockie Barnard, Mbasa Nkonki, Simelela Nkomo, Anele Nzimande, Malwandi Dlangalala. Conversions: Jordan Hendricks (3).
Boland 36 (17) - Tries: Roann Jansen (2), Wynand du Plessis, Nathan Engelbrecht, Boldwinn Hansen. Conversions: Engelbrecht (4). Penalty: Engelbrecht. Valke 31 (5) - Tries: Franco Enslin (3), Kyle Potgieter, Tylon Kotze. Conversions: Potgieter (3).
Pumas 54 (26) - Tries: Stirling Jaarse (2), Chyle van Zyl (2), Zweli Mokoena, Xavier Fourie, Ndumiso Dludla, Tristan Juries. Conversions: Walter Visser (7). Leopards 19 (7) - Tries: Jacques Stander, Wimpie Venter, Botshelo Kubyadi. Conversions: Refentse Moabi (2).