Western Province, after an eleven year drought, have lifted the Currie Cup by beating the Sharks 25 – 18 in the final at Mr Price Kings Park, matching the Sharks evenly throughout the match and doing the basics well when it counted, with their pivot Demetri Catrakilis playing the game of his life and kicking his team to victory.
The scoreline might have been close, but the Sharks never looked in the match in the second half, losing countless lineouts and being put under extreme pressure throughout. Western Province are deserved winners of the Cup, due reward for coach Allister Coetzee who has led this team to many playoffs, and finally getting a Cup in the cupboard.
Western Province were first to put points on the board, with the Sharks penalised for going offside at the breakdown, and Catrakilis slotting from 40m out. The Sharks, through Pat Lambie, equalised seconds later, when Western Province were penalised for obstruction.
After a busy first ten minutes, in which the Sharks had all the territory and possession, WP were again penalised and Pat Lambie put the Sharks into the lead for the first time in the match. At this point, Bryan Habana was substituted after what looked like a knee injury, with Joe Pietersen replacing him as early as the 13th minute.
Western Province finally got some ball in hand, but a loopy pass was intercepted by JP Pietersen, who booted it through and the Sharks forced another penalty for Lambie to stroke through the poles, for a 6 point lead after 17 minutes.
The game took a bit of a lull, with neither team taking the game by the scruff of the neck, but a scrum penalty for the Sharks after 27 minutes put the men in black and white further in the lead with Pat Lambie showing some very good kicking form.
The pressure was firmly on Province, who declined a kick at goal immediately after the Sharks scored, opting to take the lineout, which Catrakilis kicked out off the side of the boot, three points thrown away in a tight game. Five minutes later, Province again won a penalty, this time for a dangerous tackle by Jannie du Plessis, which Joe Pietersen put over to double their score and bring the deficit down to only 6.
A beautiful move from Western Province from set piece off a scrum led to Juan de Jongh carving up the Sharks midfield, scoring a great try under the posts, which converted, put WP back in the lead by a single point.
Demetri Catrakilis put Western Province even further ahead at half time, as the Sharks were all offside trying to charge down an attempted drop kick, which led to a half time score of 12 – 16 to Western Province.
The second half started much like the first did, with the Sharks getting most of the ball and possession, and were the first to put points on the board, reducing the deficit to a single point through the boot of Pat Lambie.
The Sharks kept possession and remained inside the WP 22m, making Province defend for long periods at a time without getting over the whitewash for that all-important five pointer. The lineouts let the Sharks down, at crucial times Eben Etzebeth was prominent and took Sharks ball. Eventually the Sharks got the penalty and Lambie duly put the Sharks back in the lead with 24 minutes to play.
The Sharks bench was unused for the first 60 minutes of the match, produced Wiehahn Herbst (on for Jannie du Plessis) and Meyer Bosman (on for Tim Whitehead) to bring on some fresh legs in a time where WP were putting a lot of pressure on the Sharks. Shortly after this Kyle Cooper and Jean Deysel were introduced for Craig Burden and Willem Alberts.
The pressure from WP was soon turned into points with the Sharks going offside in defending their line – Demetri Catrakilis scoring WP’s first points of the second half and taking the lead again. This prompted John Plumtree in to another substitution, with Charl McLeod on for Cobus Reinach with 16 minutes to play.
Western Province were on the attack immediately thanks to the Sharks kicking aimlessly, and got a further three points on the board through a drop goal from Demetri Catrakilis, stretching the lead to four points.
The Sharks’ indiscretions kept costing them possession, and more importantly, allowed the Province kickers another shot at goal, with Joe Pietersen taking the 40m shot and putting it short – a relief for every Shark supporter in the crowd. The Province pressure did not stop, and with 4 minutes to play, Catrakilis slotted another dropgoal, this time off his left boot, to put Province 7 points ahead and the Sharks very close to out of this clash.
The Sharks threw everything and the proverbial kitchen sink at the Province defence, but could not make the necessary ground, and with the basics eluding the Sharks when it counted most, Western Province held on for a deserved victory.
The Sharks will have to go back to their basics and build on what has been a good season for them, reaching two finals, and even though they lost both finals, did us as supporters proud.
Penalties: Pat Lambie (6 from 6)
Tries: Juan de Jongh
Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis (1 from 1)
Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis (3 from 3), Joe Pietersen (1 from 2)
Drop kick: Demetri Catrakilis (2 from 2)