WP stun favoured Sharks

2012-10-29 00:00

REVENGE, as Western Province coach Allister Coetzee will tell you, is best served cold and he had several helpings at King’s Park on a cool Saturday night.

Province — young, depleted and written off as potential winners — provided a remarkable show of courage and character to down the heavily-fancied Sharks 25-18 in Saturday’s Currie Cup final.

It brought some consolation after Coetzee’s Stormers lost in devastating fashion to the Sharks in the home semi-final of Super Rugby in August after his side had topped the log.

And the genial Coetzee, clearly smarting from past criticisms, said he was delighted to finally answer his detractors, the media in Cape Town and those who had dismissed his players as no-hopers, in such eloquent fashion.

“It was beautiful, man. I really loved being so much the underdogs. The only ones who believed we could win this final were the players.

“The Sharks are a formidable side, and we have a lot of respect for them, but we knew our desire would be much more than theirs in this final. At half time in the change-room the whole feeling was this final is ours.

“We had to go out in the second half and do the basics right and put their set piece under pressure in their own half and you saw what happened.”

Coetzee said he was tired of the press in Cape Town, for banging on about the many years (11 in all) since they last won a trophy and for criticising the Province and Stormers teams for their conservative game plan, their lack of tries and bonus points.

But Coetzee also remembered the 2010 Currie Cup final and what was said by Sharks’ captain Stefan Terblanche after his Springbok-loaded Province team were thumped 30-10.

“A team like ours, playing together, will always beat talented individuals,” an emotional Terblanche said that night.

That seemingly harmless observation stung Coetzee and has stayed with him since.

“It was so good to shove those words in the faces of those who said it,” Coetzee said on Saturday night.

Indeed, the roles were exactly reversed, with Province’s committed youngsters stunning a Sharks outfit crowded with in-form Springboks.

While every dog and his owner was convinced that the Sharks could not be beaten, coach John Plumtree had warned that Province were capable of taking the title, highlighting their threatening lineout and the individual brilliance of a number of their backs.

He was right on the money. This final was lost at the lineout, while it was Bok centre Juan de Jongh who split the Sharks defence, and the contest, with a blistering break for the only try of the final shortly before half time.

Plumtree was visibly shaken by the defeat.

“To make three finals in the two major competitions [in the Currie Cup, twice, and Super Rugby] in a year and lose is devastating.”

He said the failure of the Sharks’ lineout had been decisive.

“It just did not function. You can’t lose nine of your own lineouts and expect to win a final.”

But Plumtree also praised the quality of the Province defence.

“They obviously set out to slow down our ball at the breakdown and succeeded. What really irritated me was that we never had the opportunity to get our game going. We weren’t polished and, really, we just didn’t play,” he said.

Captain Keegan Daniel could not explain why the Sharks had failed so badly in the lineout.

“We worked hard on our lineouts during the week and I’m certainly not going to point fingers at any individual. All eight forwards have to work together to make the lineout work.”

Daniel said that they had expected Province to be tough, adding that they had won because they capitalised on their possession at key moments.

Plumtree said there was little consolation in the fact that the Sharks had enjoyed such success during the year.

“I’ve been coaching for a long time now and I’m a tough coach to please because I want to win all the time. This team has done very well this season, but we haven’t won any trophies. That’s tough to accept.”

This was a stunning upset, the biggest in recent Currie Cup history and one to rival Natal’s famous first title win over Naas Botha’s Northern Transvaal at Loftus in 1990.

The post-mortems in defeat could last for weeks; the celebrations in a relieved Cape Town will continue for months.

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