DHL Western Province made a number of handling errors and struggled in the scrum and although they matched Griquas with three tries apiece, they butchered too many other openings and Whitehead’s 100 percent record from the kicking tee ensured his team maximised their advantage from their fewer opportunities.
Province scored two of those tries in the final five minutes – and never headed the home team – to grab a bonus point as their own play-off hopes hang by a thread with one round to play.
Returning Springbok Damian Willemse provided their brightest moments of the match as he made a late entry but, for all their huff and puff, Province were never convincing.
Griquas had the better of the first half with clever Whitehead pulling the strings. In the second minute he caught Province napping to create the opportunity for the home side’s first try. While Province trooped back expecting a shot at goal from half way after Griquas had been awarded a penalty, Whitehead tapped to himself, fed speeding scrumhalf Zak Burger on his right shoulder and his measured grubber was collected on the right touchline by full Anthony Volmink who flicked it inside to Ederies Arendse to power over from close range.
A flat, power pass from Whitehead across the face of the Province backline by Whitehead to Michal Haznar in the 34th minute allowed the centre to draw the last defender and give a scoring pass to left wing Eduan Keyter to jog over unopposed.
Whitehead converted both and his kicking from hand frequently turned a Province team that, when it did threaten, was its own worst enemy with handling errors, most notably by Seabelo Senatla who frequently popped up in threatening positions only to see opportunities spurned.
Province fullback SP Marais kicked penalties in the 26th and 42nd minutes to give his team some small reward for all their efforts until Senatla held on to a pass from his former Blitzbok team mate Ruhan Nel to score in the left hand corner, 12 minutes into the second half.
Marais missed the conversion and Griquas extended their lead in the 55th minute when Arendse was on the end of some good interpassing between forwards and back to score in his right hand corner – although it needed him to step and power through two tackles to do so.
The unerring boot of Whitehead curled in another conversion from the right hand touchline to extend the Griquas lead to 13 points (24-11) before it was extended by a further three , thanks to another Whitehead curler after Nel was penalised and yellow carded for cynical play as he stripped the ball on the ground to snuff out a promising Griquas break out.
Four minutes from time Province replacement looseforward Nama Xaba shaved the whitewash to ground the ball as he forced his way over from close range, and then Senatla got his second in the dying seconds, from a defence-splitting, one-handed reverse pass from replacement Damian Willemse to briefly threaten the Griquas win as a frantic Province finally began to apply consistent pressure.
There was time for the restart and if Province had re-gathered it, they would have had one last roll of the dice. But Whitehead finished as he had started with an inspired kick off, finding a gap in the Province line-up to drill the bouncing ball into touch to give his team a deserved victory.
Tafel Lager Griquas – Tries: Ederies Arendse (2), Eduan Keyter. Conversions: George Whitehead (3). Penalties: Whitehead (2).
DHL Western Province – Tries: Seabelo Senatla (2), Nama Xaba. Conversion: SP Marais. Penalties: SP Marais (2).