Currie Cup success for Western Province should be seen in isolation. Thriving in Super Rugby should be the measure of any coaching staff worth their salt, writes RYAN VREDE.
Allister Coetzee and his assistant coaches have done well to take their Western Province team to the final of the domestic showpiece. They start Saturday's final at Newlands as favourites, having lost just once there in their campaign, and thumping the Lions 27-14 at the venue in August.
What does their progress in the tournament tell us? Perhaps that their deeply rooted and chronic struggles in Super Rugby are on the brink of ending? Not a chance. It tells us that, when no Springboks play, their pool of remaining players are stronger than that of the other unions. It also tells us that in that environment, Coetzee and co are very competent.
If you're a fan of the union, don't let their participation in the final, and the joy associated with that, poison your perspective. They've made three Currie Cup finals in the last four years (winning one) yet have been on a steady decline in Super Rugby in that period. They finished this season's Super Rugby campaign in 11th place, winning just seven matches.
The victory in the 2012 Currie Cup final eased pressure on Coetzee, whose side had slumped to an embarrassing home semi-final defeat to an injury-depleted Crusaders team, and a win will have exactly the same effect for him this time around. Coetzee appears to be the darling of the WP executives. Certainly on the evidence of their apparent acceptance of mediocrity, this assertion isn't sensationalist.
A Currie Cup victory will also appease a supporter base that is desperate for any kind of success. They are undoubtedly the most loyal of all supporter groups in South Africa, proof of that coming again just this year in the form of them packing Newlands consistently during a woeful Super Rugby campaign. They have become the eternal optimists, their love for their team and the game blending with the history of the union to make it impossible to stay away. The team's troubles in the tournament they are supposed to be measuring themselves in, will be forgotten over celebratory brandy and cokes in the wake of a WP victory.
With February 2015 will come fighting talk of a charge for the play-offs and an opportunity to break their Super Rugby title drought. However, if the pattern of recent years is anything to go by (and there is no indication that we'll deviate from that pattern), their supporters will end up once again lamenting a disappointing Super Rugby campaign. The more naive among those will point to a Currie Cup title (or at worst a place in the final) and wonder why they haven't turned the corner.
By then the feeling of goodwill a Currie Cup title creates will have faded and there will be renewed calls for Coetzee and co to be replaced. It's the circle of life in the Cape at present.
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