The Sharks scored a try in the final 10 minutes to earn a 19-9 Currie Cup semi-final victory over Western Province at Newlands on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
This was the first contest played between these two sides after their Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup round-robin matches were both called off due to Covid-19 protocols.
The result gave the Sharks entry to their third final in the last four Currie Cup tournaments, where they will face the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday.
The game had special significance for Province, as it was potentially the last professional game to be played at Newlands. Unfortunately for the Cape side, they were unable to give their hallowed ground a winning send-off.
Province will only have themselves to blame, though, as they had chance after chance to give themselves a comfortable lead as they utterly dominated the first half, playing most of it in the Sharks’ 22-metre area. In many ways, this game was a repetition of their other round-robin matches at home, where they have also had the better of the game, but have strangely been unable to capitalise.
The Sharks got off to a solid start, despite not having any ball to speak of, as Curwin Bosch kicked three successive long-range penalties – two of them from his own half – to open up a 9-0 lead.
However, Province slowly started to work their way back into the match and created plenty of opportunities to score. Bizarrely, they turned down four kickable penalties in the first half, as they tried to maul it from the corners, but were well met by the Sharks, as Ruben van Heerden won two lineouts against the throw on his own tryline.
Province managed to get themselves on the board as they finally opted to kick at goal, with flyhalf Tim Swiel knocking a couple of penalties over to send them into the break trailing at 9-6.
The battle of the flyhalves continued as Swiel slotted his third penalty at the start of the second half to level the scores at 9-9, before Bosch kicked a drop goal to give the Sharks the lead again.
A crucial moment of the game came in the 70th minute as it seemed that Thembelani Bholi had scored a potential match winner from a maul. However, upon review TMO Stuart Berry spotted that lock JJ van der Mescht had obstructed a tackler in the process that Bholi had scored.
However, it mattered little as the Sharks won another penalty and worked their way to within inches of the Province tryline, with Van der Mescht atoning for his error by reaching over to score the winner.
Western Province – Penalties: Tim Swiel (3).
Sharks – Try: JJ van der Merscht. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (3). Drop goal: Bosch.
Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Subs (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ruhan Nel, 24 Sazi Sandi, 25 Tristan Leyds.
Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok.