Five lessons from the Currie Cup final at Newlands, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Fans still care about the Currie Cup
For the first time in a non-World Cup year, the Springboks did not play any part in South Africa's domestic tournament, yet 48,000 people packed Newlands for Saturday's final, and there were good crowds for both semi-finals. The Currie Cup clearly still matters to South African rugby fans even though it has become an under-strength tournament that is more about developing players for Super Rugby than earning bragging rights as South Africa's best team (an honour, which this year, belongs to the Sharks, who won the South African Super Rugby conference when the Boks were available).
Goal-kickers can win, and lose, finals
Demetri Catrakilis justified his selection ahead of Kurt Coleman by succeeding with all five of his kicks at goal on Saturday. Many, including Nick Mallett, felt Coleman should have worn the Western Province No 10 jersey as he is better suited to the attacking game WP played throughout the league stage. But play-off rugby is a different beast, and just two tries were scored in a final involving two teams that crossed the line 84 times between them during the regular season. In such a tight game, Catrakilis's reliable boot was invaluable for WP. In stark contrast, Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff produced his worst goal-kicking performance of the season, missing four penalties, including one in the 80th minute that would have taken the game into extra time. With Ruan Combrinck also off target with a penalty attempt, the visitors missed out on 15 points.
You have to earn the right to go wide
In the buildup to the final, the Lions insisted they would stick with the ball-in-hand, attacking game that had seen them finish second on the log, and score six tries against the Sharks in their semi-final. And they did, to their detriment. The Lions played too much rugby in their own half during the first 40 minutes, instead of kicking for field position and building pressure. When they did adopt a more pragmatic approach after the break they were able to fight their way back from 13-0 down to make it 13-13 after 57 minutes. It was obvious on Saturday which team was playing in their third consecutive Currie Cup final and which team was in their first since 2011.
Nizaam Carr belongs with the Boks
Western Province's Player of the Year was immense on Saturday and deserves to be included in the Springbok squad for their end-of-year tour. Carr again carried the ball strongly, making 116m from 14 runs. He also made 19 tackles, more than any other player on the park. When asked about Carr at the start of the Currie Cup, Heyneke Meyer said he had enjoyed what he had seen of the flanker in Super Rugby and that the message to him was to keep on playing well because he is on the national radar. Carr has done exactly that and should be rewarded for it.
Craig Joubert is a referee for the big occasion
There have been several poor refereeing performances this year, so it was a pleasure to see the man in the middle enhance, and not detract from, the occasion on Saturday. Joubert rewarded the Lions for their dominance up front with five scrum penalties, played advantage well and allowed the game to flow. Former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has pulled no punches when evaluating referees this year but he had only praise for Joubert. 'After having reviewed final, I can honestly say that I think Craig Joubert was outstanding – my clear vote for man of the match!' tweeted Kaplan on Sunday.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images
Back Province to take title
Where you should put your money on the Currie Cup final this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
Catrakilis vs Boshoff
Saturday's final at Newlands will hinge on the accuracy of the two flyhalves, in decision-making and goal-kicking, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Best kickers overcome pressure
Demetri Catrakilis's cool goal-kicking separated the two finalists at Newlands on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.