WP power secures the Cup
Gavin Rich
October 28, 2017

The slow poison of a strong scrum and complete dominance of the gain-line battle after halftime saw Western Province come from behind to score an emphatic 33-21 win over the Sharks in Saturday’s Currie Cup final that secures the Cape union it’s 34th domestic title.

Currie Cup final wins built on strong scrumming platforms are part of the folklore of the oldest national competition in world rugby but it looked like it was going to go against the script early in the game. WP pushed the Sharks off the ball in the first scrum of the match and they retained that domination of the key set-piece throughout, but the Sharks scored a thrilling try down the left flank to Odwa Ndungane just seconds after Province had made their telling statement.

WP struck straight back with a good try to the eventual man of the match Huw Jones, who bade farewell to South African rugby before moving to Scotland with a brace of tries and a masterful all-round performance at inside centre for the visitors.

But WP wasted the early forward dominance by making too many mistakes, and too many dropped balls and some silly penalties given away saw the Sharks move into a 21-10 lead at one point. Part of that advantage on the scoreboard was down to the brilliance of Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who snapped over a phenomenal drop-goal from near the halfway line. It was phenomenal because not only was it from long range, but he did it from behind a retreating scrum. Unfortunately for the Sharks it was an otherwise average performance for their pivot and ace kicker.

Daniel du Preez also joined Ndungane on the team’s try-scoring sheet by wriggling over in the right corner, and while the Sharks were being pounded in the scrums, with Wilco Louw once again surely a strong contender for the man of the match award, somehow they managed to remain comfortably ahead until the stroke of halftime.

It was then that perhaps the key score of the match came. WP had been camping in Sharks territory but were battling to break down the Sharks defence. It was eventually sensational young WP fullback Damian Willemse who produced the skip pass that sent Dillyn Leyds over in the corner. If the Sharks had gone to the break 10 points ahead they may have had the confidence to hang on in the second half, but that score would have been a big psychological blow to them, and a massive boost for WP.

Instead of going into the break well behind, WP were just six points down (21-15), and such was their scrumming dominance and the strength of other aspects of forward play, that you would have had to have given them a strong chance of prevailing in the second 40 minutes. The longer the game lasted so the WP dominance of the gain-line battle had also increased, and let it be said that the Sharks weren’t helped by the early exit to injury of Jean-Luc du Preez.

When the big flanker left the field his team was leading 15-7. They were to score only six more points after that while WP scored another 29. And make no mistake, WP were worth every point of that scoreboard dominance, that’s how much on top they were of a Sharks team that was leaden footed and flat by the time the final whistle arrived.

WP scored 18 unanswered points in the second half and in many ways the match was a carbon copy of the league match played here two weeks ago. On that occasion the Sharks led 13-3 at the break before losing 31-20.

Province had let themselves down in the first half by being poor in fielding restarts, which allowed the Sharks to apply pressure. After the break though they tightened up that area of their game, and simply suffocated the Sharks out of the contest, much like they did to the Lions in Cape Town in the semifinal the previous week.

Ironically though it was off the first and only strong Sharks scrum of the match that Nizaam Carr managed to snaffle the ball and break through to put big Cobus Wiese in for the try down the right touchline on the 50th minute. The conversion was missed by WP flyhalf Robert du Preez so the Sharks retained a one point advantage, but by then it was obvious that the dominant WP team were going to have their day.

And so it proved, with Jones going over for his second try before Du Preez kicked a penalty to propel his team into a 30-21 lead after an hour. With 20 minutes to go there was no way back for the Sharks as WP were so emphatically on top and were playing most of the game in Sharks territory. However, Bosch did have an easy penalty attempt after 65 minutes that could have brought his team back to within a score of WP but missed it.

It wasn’t his only miss from the place-kicking tee, and the Sharks missed out on eight points that Bosch might normally have kicked. Having said that, and although Bosch was shown up in several areas of his game, not the least when Seabelo Senatla ran around him to set up Jones’ second try, you can’t blame Bosch for the defeat.

He was shown up for sure, but this final was decided where so many finals are decided – in the battle up front. A few weeks ago such a dominant WP forward performance would have been unimaginable but over the past three weekends they have hammered the Sharks and the Lions packs. And when you that when Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff and others return to the mix for Super Rugby next year only three of the players in this pack will be sure of their places, then you realise how formidable the Stormers pack could become.

For the Sharks it would have been an abjectly disappointing way to end a domestic season that they dominated until the false note sounded against WP here two weeks ago. On the day though they’d have to agree they were just beaten by a side that peaked at the right time.


Western Province 33 – Tries: Huw Jones 2, Dillyn Leyds and Cobus Wiese; Conversions: Robert du Preez 2; Penalties: Robert du Preez 3.

Sharks 21 – Tries: Odwa Ndungane and Daniel du Preez; Conversion: Curwin Bosch; Penalties: Curwin Bosch 2; Drop-goal: Curwin Bosch.

Castle Lager Outgoing Tour
Saturday, November 03 2018
17:00 - England vs South Africa
Twickenham, London
Saturday, November 10 2018
22:05 - France vs South Africa
Stade de France, Paris
Saturday, November 17 2018
19:20 - Scotland vs South Africa
Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Saturday, November 24 2018
19:20 - Wales vs South Africa
Principality Stadium, Cardiff

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