The day WP made it five in a row

It was a historic occasion the last time Western Province and the then Transvaal met in the Currie Cup final in 1986, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

The high-water mark of a dominant era in South African rugby for Western Province, their run of consecutive Currie Cup titles would come to an end the following year as Northern Transvaal reclaimed the crown, but nothing can be taken away from the team of the 1980s.

One of the finest to play the game, they achieved a feat unlikely to be matched in the modern game. Five titles in as many years takes some doing, but this was an era unparalleled in WP rugby.

While stalwarts like Rob Louw, Divan Serfontein and Hennie Bekker had moved on by the time of the 1986 final, Province still had plenty in their ranks to trouble Transvaal. Schalk Burger Snr and current WP director of rugby Gert Smal were two standouts, with Smal flourishing at eighthman following the departure of Louw.

Among the backs, captain Carel du Plessis, Faffa Knoetze and Goggie van Heerden were dynamic with ball in hand and caused even the best defences endless problems. Transvaal, with Springboks Wahl Bartmann and Jannie Breedt among the back row, certainly weren't overmatched and showed as much in the early exchanges.

They grabbed the first try of the game through centre Hugo van As, who made the most of a chargedown to give the Lions the lead. It didn't take long for WP's response, as the fleet-footed Faffa Knoetze deceived the Transvaal defence to make the score 6-4 to the visitors after nine minutes.

The match remained in the balance as time wore down, with the hosts holding a narrow 10-9 lead heading into the final minutes. However, with just over a minute remaining, WP struck from a scrum in their own half.

Picking up the ball at the base of the scrum, Freddie Ferreira made a darting run before finding Chris Smit, who in turn laid the ball off to Goggie van Heerden. With Carel du Plessis in tow, Van Heerden burst down the left touchline, threw a dummy before handing off Liaan Kirkham to go over in the corner to effectively seal the match.

With the Province supporters in full cry, the home side gave one last memorable moment to their ardent fans.

Following a lineout in their own half, Transvaal flyhalf Schalk Naudé attempted a chip and chase which was gathered by the effervescent Ferreira. Under pressure from the onrushing Transvaal forwards, he managed to offload to Goggie van Heerden, who drew his man and found fullback Calla Scholtz flying on his outside.

Scholtz raced down the touchline before handing the ball off to Clark Ellis on the right wing. Ellis, seeing Hempus Rademeyer on the cover then threw a looping pass back inside, which found Van Heerden, who cantered over the tryline, and was mobbed by the celebrating WP supporters.

It would prove the end of an era for WP as Carel du Plessis and his brother Michael moved north the following year, turning out for Transvaal in the final against Northern Transvaal. They would share the title in 1989, but had to wait over a decade before the Currie Cup was in their sole possession again, following their 14-12 win over the Free State Cheetahs at Newlands in 1997.

Western Province – Tries: Goggie van Heerden (2), Faffa Knoetze. Conversions: Clark Ellis (2). Penalties: Clark Ellis (2).
Transvaal – Try: Hugo van As. Conversion: Liaan Kirkham, Penalty: Liaan Kirkham.

Western Province – 15 Calla Scholtz, 14 Clark Ellis, 13 Faffa Knoetze, 12 Goggie van Heerden, 11 Carel du Plessis (c), 10 Chris Smit, 9 Freddie Ferreira, 8 Gert Smal, 7 Deon Lötter, 6 Tiaan Strauss, 5 Schalk Burger Snr, 4 Neil Hugo, 3 Keith Andrews, 2 Shaun Povey, 1 Bill Niewoudt.

Transvaal – 15 Jannie Tiedt, 14 Hempas Rademeyer, 13 Hugo van As, 12 Dries Maritz, 11 Liaan Kirkham, 10 Schalk Naudé, 9 John Robbie, 8 Jannie Breedt (c), 7 Pote Fourie, 6 Wahl Bartmann, 5 Lappies Labuschagne, 4 Daan Badenhorst, 3 Piet Kruger, 2 Chris Rogers, 1 Barabas Venter.