The Sharks stunned Western Province as they powered to an emphatic 33-19 win at Newlands on Saturday to be crowned Currie Cup champions.
Last week, after the convincing win in the semifinal over the Golden Lions, people were smiling broadly, their heads were up, there was a lightness in their step. This week, after the convincing defeat in the Final, nobody smiled as they trudged head down away from Newlands – and that did not include the thousands who flooded out of the ground as soon as the writing was clear on the wall. This time it was as if a pall of lugubrious mist had settled over Newlands.
There was nobody who blamed the referee or lady luck – nobody who did not believe that the winning team thoroughly deserved their victory which could in fact have been even bigger – big enough though it was.
Believe what you saw – the Sharks thoroughly deserved to win the 2013 Currie Cup Final. They did it by giving hitherto unbeaten Western Province a hiding. Was there complacency in the Western Province camp? Quite possible, for after all the Sharks have never won a Currie Cup Final at Newlands, We who are unbeaten have beaten them twice, we are fitter, faster, stronger and so on. We have our motivating crowd snapping up all available tickets in no time to get behind us. We are the champions waiting to be crowned. And we have Newlands with its elegance and ghosts.
But what we did not know was that our line-out was malfunction, their kick-offs too painful to hold, our kicking just a wanton transfer of possession, a prodigal waste leaving us to feed on scraps while theirs added to pressure, they finished stronger and the faithful grew quiet and tramped out of the stadium – even at one stage booing their own players for pointless kicking. Oh and we said: “The game is ours to lose.” “We” lost it all right.
For one thing the Sharks seemed prepared to play Western Province in the Final; Western Province did not seem prepared to play the Sharks in the Final, possibly believing that all they had to do was play.
The start to the occasion was fun – the klopse marching round with joyful tunes, the Currie Cup in its shining gold, the big sails for each side, and the national anthem sung by a choir and 50 000 voices.
The Sharks kicked off and threw into the first line-out. They made a maul which Pat Cilliers pulled down. Pat Lambie goaled. 3-0 after 2 minutes.
Western Province were playing with enthusiasm through many phases and the Sharks had their work cut out to keep them at bay. Then Louis Schreuder, who seems unable to pass of the ground, picked up behind another tackle/ruck, took five steps to his right and flung a long pass in the direction of Gerhard van den Heever but Charl McLeod darted ahead and intercepted the ball. Of he sped to the goal-line 62 metres away as Damian de Allende hurtled across the field, gaining and tackling but too late, for McLeod had the joy of scoring. Lambie converted. 10-0 after 6 minutes.
Lambie had an odd off-day with the boot. He missed three relatively easy penalty attempts, a dropped goal from a good position and a conversion. Put 14 points on 33 and you have a hiding all right.
But suddenly the Western Province world seemed to come right. They went through phases and De Allende broke between Jannie du Plessis and Lwazi Mvovo and scored at the posts, exhorting the crowd to get excited about Western Province. Catrakelis converted. 10-7 after 9 minutes and the packed crowd burst into party mood. Little did they know that this would be the only Western Province try and that the Sharks would not relinquish their lead, not for 78 minutes.
This match marked the emotional end to the brilliant refereeing career of one of the greatest referees ever – Jonathan Kaplan, who has refereed 68 Tests, 162 Currie Cup matches, including six Finals. He started the match with tears in his eyes and then refereed it brilliantly, a match of good manners which spoke volumes for the respect the players have for him and at the end there were again tears for a man who has been for 21 years on South Africa’s elite panels, an intelligent, thinking referee.
Man of the Match: The Sharks were outstanding. And amongst those outstanding players were their half packs who carried out their plans, Pat Lambie at flyhalf and Charl McLeod at scrumhalf, SP Marais at fullback, Bismarck du Plessis and our Man of the Match, Pieter-Steph du Toit, a great young player, the grandson of the great Piet du Toit. Tackling was a massive part of the Sharks success and they all did that, but perhaps especially Frans Steyn, Willem Alberts and Marcel Coetzee.
Moment of the Match: That stolen pass that produced Charl McLeod’s fist try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody at all. The match was played in a spirit worthy of the great competition.
For Western Province: Try: De Allende Con: Catrakilis Pens: Catrakilis 3, Coleman
For Sharks: Tries: McLeod 2 Cons: Lambie Pens: Lambie 4 DGs: Lambie 2