Five lessons from the Currie Cup final at Newlands, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Pragmatic rugby wins finals
In the buildup to the decider, Lions coach Johan Ackermann insisted his men would stick with the ball-in-hand, attacking game that had seen them score 44 tries in 10 league matches and another six against the Sharks in their semi-final. And they did, to their detriment. The Lions played too much rugby in their own half and behind the gainline during the first 40 minutes, instead of kicking for field position and building pressure. When they did adopt a more pragmatic approach after the break they were able to fight their way back from 13-0 down to make it 13-13 after 57 minutes. It was obvious on Saturday which team was playing in their third consecutive Currie Cup final and which was in their first since 2011.
Goal-kickers can win, and lose, finals
Demetri Catrakilis justified his selection ahead of Kurt Coleman by succeeding with all five of his kicks at goal on Saturday. Many, including Nick Mallett, felt Coleman should have worn the Western Province No 10 jersey as he is better suited to the attacking game WP played throughout the league stage. But play-off rugby is a different beast, and just two tries were scored in a final involving two teams that crossed the line 84 times between them during the regular season. In such a tight game, Catrakilis's reliable boot was invaluable for WP, while Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff produced his worst goal-kicking performance of the season, missing four penalties, including one in the 80th minute that would have taken the game into extra time. With Ruan Combrinck also off target with a penalty attempt, the visitors missed out on a massive 15 points.
Nizaam Carr belongs with the Boks
Western Province’s MVP and Players’ Player of the Year was immense in the Currie Cup final, making 67m from 12 runs and 21 tackles. When asked about Carr’s Bok prospects at the start of the Currie Cup, Heyneke Meyer said he had enjoyed what he had seen of the flanker in Super Rugby and the message to him was to keep on playing well because he is on the national radar. Carr did exactly that and received his reward when he was included in the Springbok squad for their end-of-year tour.
Fans still care about the Currie Cup
For the first time in a non-World Cup year, the Springboks did not play any part in South Africa's domestic tournament, yet 44,505 people packed Newlands for Saturday's final, and there were good crowds for both semi-finals. The Currie Cup clearly still matters to South African rugby fans even though it has become an under-strength tournament that is more about developing players for Super Rugby than earning bragging rights as South Africa's best team (an honour, which this year, belongs to the Sharks, who won the South African Super Rugby conference when the Boks were available).
Craig Joubert is a referee for the big occasion
There have been several poor refereeing performances this year, so it was a pleasure to see the man in the middle enhance, and not detract from, the occasion on Saturday. Joubert rewarded the Lions for their dominance up front with six scrum penalties – all of which were justified – played advantage well and let the players take centre stage. Former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has pulled no punches when evaluating referees this year on his blog but he had only praise for Joubert on Twitter. 'After having reviewed final, I can honestly say that I think Craig Joubert was outstanding – my clear vote for man of the match!' said Kaplan on Sunday.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images