Western Province overturned an 11-point deficit to claim a stunning 33-21 win over the Sharks in Saturday’s Currie Cup final at Kings Park. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The two most recent finals between these teams – 2012 and 2013 – both resulted in shock wins, and history repeated itself in Durban as Province produced a famous second-half performance that enabled them to complete a remarkable comeback.
WP had trailed 21-10 heading into the latter stages of the opening period, but they would go on to score 23 unanswered points as they displayed the superior composure and class under pressure to claim a third domestic final in the past five years.
Province’s monstrous scrum and a brace of tries to Huw Jones were ultimately the headline features of the final, but it was also their greater appreciation of possession and opportunistic finishing that enabled them to repeat the shock Durban win of 2012.
While Sharks coach Rob du Preez had reiterated the importance of patience and composure in the week leading up to the final, the hosts ultimately crumbled under a weight of pressure applied by WP in the second half.
Province had enjoyed precious little ball in the red zone in the first half, but struck a crucial blow just before the break as Dillyn Leyds went over to score in the corner after Sharks winger Kobus van Wyk had left space to be exploited out wide by shooting out of the defensive line.
Although WP were hampered by some basic errors early on, their dominance at scrum time had enabled them to remain in the fight, while momentum dramatically shifted when Cobus Wiese and Jones went over for two quickfire tries as the Sharks’ one-on-one tackling began to let them down.
That enabled Province to take the lead for the first time in the game at the 55-minute mark, while Robert du Preez – who enjoyed another stellar outing – slotted a simple penalty soon after to open up a nine-point buffer.
To make matters worse for the Sharks, Bosch then missed a relatively simple penalty, with the youngster’s confidence appearing to have taken a knock after his two weak tackles had played a part in Province’s second-half tries.
The game was as good as gone for the Sharks when Dan du Preez was then sent to the sin bin, while older brother Robert slotted his third penalty as ill-discipline began to haunt the home side.
For the Sharks, the result will sting, especially considering they could hardly have scripted a better start to this clash when a beautiful break from Marius Louw put veteran Odwa Ndungane away for the simplest of tries in the fourth minute.
However, Province had made a massive statement when they sent the Sharks’ first scrum wheeling backwards, and it was from this dominant set piece that the visitors were able to lay the foundation for Jones to ghost over for their opening try.
Those scrum woes may have set some alarm bells ringing for the Sharks, but these were briefly quietened as Bosch coolly slotted a penalty, before a Du Preez twins special saw Dan dot down after a powerful initial carry from Jean-Luc.
In that opening quarter, the Du Preez brothers had personified the physical ball-carrying approach of the Sharks’ forwards, but in a considerable blow for the home team midway through the first half, Jean-Luc had to be helped from the field after suffering what looked to be a serious ankle injury.
Yet, it couldn’t detract from the fact that the Sharks were initially bossing the gainline battle, while Bosch stamped his mark on proceedings when he slotted a Frans Steyn-esque 50m drop goal to push his side into a handy 21-10 lead.
That would virtually be the last moment for the Sharks to celebrate, though, as they lost their way from there, while Province came roaring back to claim another famous win at Kings Park.
Sharks – Tries: Odwa Ndungane, Dan du Preez. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (2). Drop goal: Bosch.
Western Province – Tries: Huw Jones (2), Dillyn Leyds, Cobus Wiese. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Robert du Preez (3).
Sharks – 15 Garth April, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Tristan Blewett, 23 Rhyno Smith.
Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Dan Kriel.