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. Catrakilis converted. 10-7 after nine 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.
The three-pointers followed. Lambie scored when Scarra Ntubeni came grossly in at the side, Catrakilis scored when Pieter-Steph du Toit tackled high and then Lambie dropped a soaring goal. After Catrakilis’s penalty Lambie kicked off and two Western Province players went for the ball and made a mess. The Sharks got the ball, bashed and passed it back to Lambie some 35 metres out but in front. 16-10 after 27 minutes.
Western Province turned down a kick at goal for a five-metre line-out which they turned into a clever mess. Western Province put pressure on the Sharks’ scrum and when Lambie’s clearance from inside his in-goal did not go out the brothers Du Plessis were penalised for advancing and Catrakilis made it 16-13 after 33 minutes.
Again at the kick-off two Western Province players went for the ball and knocked it on incurring a penalty for offside at a knock-on. Lambie’s kicked bounced away off an upright and then he missed one from in front when Jean de Villiers was offside but he goaled one when Deon Fourie was penalised at a tackle to make the half-time score 19-13.
Catrakilis and Lambie each goaled penalties. 22-16 after 44 minutes.
There was drama. From a ruck outside the Western Province 22, Gio Aplon, at scrumhalf, passed back to Demetri Catrakilis who had Bismarck du Plessis and Du Toit charging at him. The ball when through his hands. He turned got it and then the two big Sharks banged into him. They won the ball and the Sharks went left where Frans Steyn throw a brilliant, long pass to Mvovo who was over. The referee consulted his assistant and the TMO and there was clear evidence that Bismarck du Plessis was offside when he started his charge. No try, but a penalty to Western Province. Catrakilis was injured and had to be helped from the field, looking frail. Kurt Coleman took his place.
But in a carbon copy of his first-half drop, McLeod passed back to Lambie who kicked a soaring goal. 25-16 after 52 minutes.
At this stage Western Province swapped Schreuder for Nic Groom.
The Sharks were penalised at a tackle and Coleman goaled. 25-19. But then SP Marais grubbered. At the last minute the ball spat up at De Allende who hit it a long way forward with his hands into the arms of Mvovo. Bismarck du Plessis and Alberts made useful ground and a solid tackle by Cheslin Kolbe stopped Lambie at the line but McLeod was on hand to swoop and dive for his second try. 30-19 after 59 minutes.
Well behind Western Province resorted to lots of kicking downfield where the Sharks stationed their back three and coped easily.
The Sharks won a turnover off Western Province and McLeod sped down the right side of the field. The Sharks then went wide left but Marais was tackled out at the corner.
Western Province had their best moment when Aplon, Kolbe and De Villiers weaved speedy magic. The Sharks were penalised. Western Province made a line-out and mauled. The Sharks were again penalised. Western Province made a line-out and a maul but in that maul Michael Rhodes did his best to strangle Bismarck du Plessis and was penalised. There were nine minutes to play and Western Province had just blown their last chance.
With a minute or so to go Bismarck du Plessis was substituted. It happened to him at the Ellis Park test and his body language then shouted his outrage at the change. This time he danced off in glee as the Sharks were certain of victory.
In fact they increased their lead when De Villiers was penalised for holding on and Lambie made the final score 33-19.
Western Province had a line-out after this but lost it, thus confirming their own inability to do simple things well enough.
It was a time for great glee for the Sharks and their sprinkling of supporters.
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
Pens: Catrakilis 3, Coleman
Tries: McLeod 2
Pens: Lambie 4
DGs: Lambie 2
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Frans Malherbe, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain) , 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Heimar Williams.
Courtesy of Rugby365.com