Western Province sent a strong message to all their rivals – they are the team to beat.
The defending champions ran riot in Nelspruit on Friday, beating the Pumas 57-28 in a 12-try feast.
In the end WP outscored their hosts by eight tries to four in an entertaining affair – with defence clearly not at a premium.
Western Province dominated possession in the early stages, running at the opposition with purpose and showing off some impressive skills on attack.
The first try saw them take it through multiple phases, with forwards and backs linking up well before flank Kobus van Dyk goose-stepped through a gap to score.
They backed that up shortly afterwards as Van Dyk won the ball back in a tackle, with Jano Vermaak gliding through a gap and then putting wing Sergeal Petersen away for the second try.
Petersen featured prominently in the third try as well, winning a high ball before throwing a sensational pass behind his back to outside centre Ruhan Nel, who was running the perfect angle and raced away.
That put Western Province 21-0 up after a breathless opening 20 minutes, but they were not done there and had the bonus point wrapped up in no time.
A powerful scrum in the Pumas 22 won a penalty advantage and the ball was given to the back, with centre Damian de Allende put Sarel Marais away with a long pass.
The home side hit back with converted tries by wing JP Lewis and lock Le Roux Roets, but Western Province had the final say in the first half with a Marais penalty which gave them a 29-14 advantage at half-time.
Western Province were first to strike in the second half as well, with Petersen flying through the air to claim another high ball and put lock Ernst van Rhyn over under the poles.
A line-out on the Pumas tryline gave Western Province a chance to try a set move, with hooker Siyabonga Ntubeni lobbing the ball into a hole in the middle, hitting flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe who ran onto it at pace to score.
Petersen had his second try when he got on the end of a well-weighted grubber from De Allende after replacement scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies had pounced on a loose ball.
That brought up the half-century, but the Pumas got some consolation with late tries from Jerome Pretorius and flyhalf Chris Smith securing the bonus point for the home side.
However, Western Province had the final say as some more great work from Petersen on the wing saw Jantjies get on the scoreboard to wrap up the 57-28 win.
Man of the match: The Western Province forwards dominated – with Juarno Augustus, Kobus van Dyk, John Schickerling and Ernst van Rhyn all very prominent. However, the Springbok Sevens duo of Sergeal Petersen and Ruhan Nel were the real sparks in this game – with Petersen winning our award.
For the Pumas:
Tries: Lewis, Roets, Smit, Pretorius
Cons: Smith 4
For Western Province:
Tries: Van Dyk, Petersen 2, Nell, Marais, Van Rhyn, Notshe, Jantjies
Cons: Marais 7