2012-10-27 21:02

WP end 11-year Currie Cup drought at kings park stadium


Penalties: Lambie (6)

Western Province

Try: Juan de Jongh
Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis
Penalties: Catrakilis (2), Joe Pietersen
Drop goals: Catrakilis (2)

In African culture, rain is seen as a blessing from the gods.

And after Western Province toughed it out, they ended an 11-year Currie Cup drought.

In 2000 against the Sharks, who were also favourites at that time, 25 points were enough to secure a victory.

This win had the stamp of the rugby gods and archangels all over it. So, fittingly, it rained after the match.

There was no even-year luck this time for the Sharks, who won the Currie Cup in 2008 and 2010.

In some way, it was sweet revenge for Province after their Super Rugby semifinal pain.

For Sharks coach John Plumtree, two consecutive Currie Cup Final losses were a bit too much to handle.

“When you get as old as me, you want to win. I’ve been coaching for a long time now and we have got a good setup here. We are reaching the top but there is something missing and we will have to work out what that is,” he said glumly.

“There is some good consistency. We have made three finals in the past year and we have not won them. It’s really disappointing and hard to take but it’s not something I would like to think about too much.”

The match showcased a flyhalf battle between Province’s Demetri Catrakilis and the Sharks’ silky Pat Lambie.

Lambie was his quiet, efficient self, feeding from mistakes made by Province and also from the early platform set up by his forwards.

Initially, Catrakilis seemed to have frozen on the big stage.

His overcooked skip pass in an overlap when the Sharks line was nowhere, which was snaffled by JP  Pietersen, summed up his disappointing start to the match.

But he improved as the match progressed, with telling effect.

His slick hand in creating Juan de Jongh’s 35th minute try displayed his rather hidden, but effective, running game. De Jongh sliced through the Sharks’ defence, handing off Keegan Daniel and Marcell Coetzee, and then side-stepping Lwazi Mvovo.

Catrakilis’ inside pass had the Sharks defence moving left, with the defenders coming from the right at the mercy of De Jongh’s arm.

Province coach Allister Coetzee could not stop beaming at the influence exerted by his young brigade.

He said: “If you don’t trust your players and they don’t trust each other then there is no family in the team. The trust came out strongly tonight.

“When you trust players and they are committed to the cause, they produce at the end of the day. The Sharks are a formidable side and we have a lot of respect for them in what they have done, but we knew our desire would be much more tonight.”

Eben Etzebeth and De Kock Steenkamp held a firm grip on line-outs throughout, and it proved to be the only set-piece they could really call their own.

Province’s scrums were walking penalties, which were excellently milked by Lambie.

It was only in the latter stages of the second half that Dean Fourie shifted into gear.

Possession was alien to the visitors, but as they showed in Super Rugby, they are adept at playing without it.

The Sharks were not bereft, but breaking down Province’s Maginot Line was not easy, as it proved to be impregnable.

In the second half, the ball was practically black and white because of the Sharks’ possession and territorial dominance.

Tactical genius was needed, but with the visitors having learnt their lessons from 2010, when they were creamed 30-10, Lambie’s space was cut down, lessening his creative influence.

Then, with more of the ball in hand, Province replied with 22m pressure in kind.

The Sharks’ defence has held out well this season but De Jongh, along with Damian de Allende, kept opposites Tim Whitehead and Paul Jordaan busy throughout.

Even though Catrakilis is the poor man’s technician, the visitors were savvier with ball in hand and more incisive on attack.

Their confidence grew and the sieges were mounted. Credit had to be given to the Sharks’ defence, though, which still had plenty in the tank and held out, but there were close shaves.

Catrakilis’ growing confidence surged through his boot. He somehow found the nerve to slot two drop goals, the second one a maelstrom of steps and a rushed kick.

Sharks captain Daniel said there was nothing they could do about the impending drop kicks.

“It was one of those things that we knew was coming, but you have got to do as much as you can to stop, but then you are running the risk of being offside. The second drop goal was not the prettiest, but it was a drop goal nonetheless,” said Daniel.

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