Western Province will be left to lament a lineout implosion as they succumbed to a 17-12 loss against the Sharks in Saturday’s final at Newlands, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After two cracking semi-finals last weekend, all signs seemed to suggest that this was set to be a highly-compelling title decider between the two most consistently impressive teams this season.
However, it proved to be a stop-start affair blighted by errors and stoppages in play, with neither team really managing to establish any fluidity to their play in blistering hot conditions in Cape Town.
For Province, the ominous portents were in evidence early on. The home side failed to cleanly collect the kickoff, and then lost their first lineout feed. It was a sign of things to come.
Within the opening quarter, Province lost three lineouts in total and were denied possession from a key set phase.
Last Saturday, the Blue Bulls looked to target the WP lineout and reaped good reward. Perhaps that served to sow some seeds of doubt in the Province lineout operators, while providing insight into an area of theirs that the Sharks could target.
At half-time, Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi was replaced by Scarra Ntubeni, but the first lineout he fed also went astray. Not long after, the Sharks scored a crucial try through Akker van der Merwe.
Within the next quarter, Province effectively lost two further lineouts to take the overall tally to six at this problematic set piece. Make no mistake, it was a game-changing area in a testy final that always looked likely to be decided by the smallest of margins.
Take nothing away from the Sharks though. The Durban-based side came to Cape Town as undeniable underdogs, and although they hardly produced a faultless performance, their physicality and dogged defence left WP looking frustrated and frazzled.
For the Sharks, they have their revenge after last year’s shock loss to Province in Durban. This time around, it was the men in black and white who celebrated as the sun set over Table Mountain, and there is no doubt that they will be toasting to this victory well into the early hours of Sunday morning.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images