The hosts had rocketed into a 21-0 lead after just 12 minutes and looked on their way to a certain victory as they held a commanding 41-19 lead in the third quarter. The Peacock Blues, however, refused to go away and struck in waves to stay in the hunt.
The key moment of the breathless battle, which produced 12 tries, came in the 58th minute when Ali Vermaak gifted Windhoek Draught Griquas a lifeline with a cynical yellow card offence, the prop yanking centre Sango Xamlashe to the ground off the ball.
Full of power, passion and panache, the never-say-die visitors rallied back from the brink of defeat by scoring four of their seven tries in the final quarter. Obi’s second touchdown in injury time tied the game at 41-all, leaving it up to Whitehead, who’d come on early in the match for the injured Zander du Plessis.
The experienced flyhalf rose to the occasion, splitting the uprights from near the left-hand touchline to complete a comeback for the ages that entrenched the men from the Northern Cape in third place ahead of the final round of the regular season next weekend.
For DHL Western Province, who played with such flair and dominated the breakdown in the first half, it was the bitterest of implosions at the Danie Craven Stadium.
The Cape side’s captain Tim Swiel - who scored 21 points through a try, five conversions and two penalty goals - started the surge as he lobbed a perfect chip for Tristan Leyds to pluck out of the air for the opening try after three minutes. They doubled their lead through their pack, hooker Jacques van Zyl dotting down from the back of a rumbling maul.
In between these scores, Windhoek Draught Griquas had lost their playmaker Du Plessis, the flyhalf suffering a head knock in his attempt to stop the explosive Angelo Davids.
The DHL Western Province backs then took it through the hands fluidly with Leyds linking up with Juan de Jongh, who showed silky footwork and good determination to triple the lead.
A monster scrum sparked the visitors to life, with scrumhalf Johan Mulder blasting off from the base and setting in motion an unstoppable sequence that resulted in Rynhardt Jonker going over, with Whitehead nailing one of his four conversions on the day to get them in the game in the 15th minute.
Whitehead was then immediately found out as ever-present Van Zyl intercepted his pass and put Davids away for the bonus-point try before Swiel got in on the act, running onto an audacious no-look chicken-wing offload from Sergeal Petersen and rounding off a remarkable counter-attack as the score swelled to 35-7.
Under-fire Windhoek Draught Griquas, however, showed great fight and tries by Sango Xamlashe and Munier Hartzenberg, both of whom benefitted from touches of class by Ashlon Davids, gave them hope as it closed the gap to 35-19 at halftime.
The Capetonians opted for a change in tactics at the start the second half as Swiel slotted the first penalty goal of the afternoon from long-range and popped over a second in the 53rd minute to take them out to 41-19.
Then came Vermaak’s moment of madness with Windhoek Draught Griquas capitalising right away as Janco Uys was mauled over for their bonus-point try. They added a great long-range score by Obi to make it a 10-point game with 10 minutes remaining and threw everything at the hosts, including a 13-phase assault.
The maul once again did the trick, Hanru Sirgel the scorer on this occasion to give them a sniff and pave the way for the dramatic triumph.
DHL Western Province 41 (35) – Tries: Tristan Leyds, Jacques van Zyl, Juan de Jongh, Angelo Davids, Tim Swiel. Conversions: Swiel (5). Penalty goals: Swiel (2).
Windhoek Draught Griquas 43 (19) – Tries: Rynhardt Jonker, Sango Xamlashe, Munier Hartzenberg, Janco Uys, Luther Obi (2), Hanru Sirgel. Conversions: George Whitehead (4).