At Sunday Mass the pastor asked the congregation who had been passed over by the cup – all the Province supporters swiftly pointed to their nearest Shark acquaintance.Fortunately this is a fictional tale on the part ofthis couch critic (of course I knew the ridicule awaiting a Shark supporter so just skipped church entirely – sorry Reverend!).
Now if you ever decide that you need to take a social media break then there truly is no better time for non-Province supporters to do so than in aftermath of a Currie Cup being won in snoek country. Moments after the final whistle (okay I lie – there was some cockiness even a few minutes before the fat lady raised her voice) it was cue the social bragging. The Capetonians had “overcome the odds” and defeated the “Bok-laden”, much fancied home side.
This critic was never convinced that it would be quite so straight forward. The Sharks had controlled the competition with a rather simple recipe: dominate upfront and defend like trojans. In the few games leading up to the final the Durbanites had however started to slip a few crucial tackles and even the impressive combination of Du Toit, Marais and Geldenhuys were going to be up against it against the power, experience and class of JC Janse van Rensburg, Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw in the final. Western Province were a team on the up and not only were they in with a chance of the “upset” but from the view from this couch they actually had a slight edge which was only balanced out due to the home ground advantage enjoyed by the Sharks.
In terms of the game itself there were a few crucial moments which swayed the contest.
- With a decent advantage and half time approaching Curwin Bosch ghosted through one of the few gaps seen in the Province defence and made his way into the opponents’22 meter area but could unfortunately not find the final pass. A score could have taken the lead past the critical 14 point barrier and this would in all likelihood have proven a bridge too far for Chris van Zyl and his chargers.
- With the hosts enjoying a 21-10 lead and the hooter sounding for the midway break it was of the utmost importance that the visitors get some form of points going into the break. After going through a number of phases Kobus van Wyk made a cardinal error as he shot up for a spot tackle on Damian Willemse. Van Wyk missed the shot and Leydswas able to dive over for a vital try before the break. The score by the pony-tailed winger also gave the Streeptruie a lot of momentum going into the sheds and certainly must have changed the tone of the team talk.
- The last moment swaying the contest came in the 50th minute. After being on the wrong end of a schooling at scrum time the home side finally produced a good grunt only to see Nizaam Car break down the blindside and set up what must have been a soul destroying score for the Robert du Preez’ (snr) side.
John Dobson has had his detractors but the Province coach had his team well and truly up for this one. The above moments were in fact well deserved for WP as they bossed the majority of the contest. The forwards had their way with their hosts and Robert du Preez (junior) called the shots to perfection in the second half. A few South African coaches can also take a leaf from Dobson’s playbook – the idea that players do not merely have to stay in the position printed on their backs is something this country has seemingly forgotten. On Saturday the creative Willemse often popped up from fullback to take the ball as first receiver and direct the attacking plays. What a novel (yet surely basic) idea.
In the end Western Province were full value for their victory and deservedly raised the trophy. People in the know are often quick to say that finals rugby is about kicking well and defending even better. These self-same pundits cite the All Blacks as example of how it is done. I have a slightly different view; the majority ofbig rugby games are won by the team who wins the tug-a-war of the eight guys upfront and then do the basics better than their opponents. Johan Ackermann had people applauding his open running style yet first and foremost his troops bossed the battle of the big boys in the pack. Whilst the Kiwis have some fantastic skill there is a significant gap between how well the men in black execute the basics of rugby compared to the rest of us mere mortals.They handle better, kick more clinically, hardly miss a lineout and yes tackle like tigers. In Durban the Province pack brought home the bacon and the rest of the lads kept things rather simple– easy as that, go fetch your gold medals.
Apart from the Currie Cup final the big news of the weekend was of course the announcement of the Springbok touring squad.
The bad news: How Raymond Rhule is still in the squad is a greater mystery than the Bermuda Triangle. Like a turnstile at a merry-go-round people pass Rhule for fun! ChiliboyRalepelleis also luckier than a leprechaun with a four leaf clover standing at the end of a rainbow on St Patrick’s Day to find himself on route to Europe with the touring party. As stated previously Ralepelle is not even the second-choice hooker at the Sharks, let alone being in the top three in the country (ahead of either of his two Shark team mates nogal). Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Dreyer, Oupa Mahoje, Uzair Cassiem and Damian de Allende are others who should be thanking their lucky stars.
The good news is rather limited. A blind man with a stick could see that Warrick Galant has been one of the brightest attacking talents in the country over the past season and a half and we wait to see what he can do in Bok colours (his defence and high-ball ability will be well tested in the Northern Hemisphere). Francois Venter deserves his inclusion and Lukhanyo Am has now impressed for more than one season so there can be no argument there. With a lack of quality scrumhalves sticking their hands up the selection of Louis Schreuder is a good one. Dan du Preez is also offered the opportunity to show his wares in conditions that usually suit his style of play.
It is a pity that Rohan Janse van Rensburg hasn’t convinced since returning from injury as he honestly has not knocked the door down the last few months. Sibusiso Nkosi’s injury is also a heart-breaking one as the Sharks winger certainly deserved his opportunity to showcase his talents at the higher level.
The likes of Cruwin Bosch, Am, Dan du Preez and Wilco Louw can learn a lot from the coming trip but one feels the selectors have missed the opportunity to blood a few more youngsters whilst culling those that we (or at least this critic) have already been weighed and found wanting.
As it is, it is a great time to be a Province supporter and an Irishman. The first will be basking in the glow submitted form the Currie Cup for the next few weeks and the latter will be gleefully anticipating the arrival of an underwhelming Springbok team to the country of Guinness and sheep.
Good luck to all the rest of us having to witness these two.
Who is Couch Critic?
Hein Diemont is the resident “Couch Critic” in the Goodforthegame Forum and he shares his weekly Super Rugby Blog the “Post Match Scuffle” or “PMS” with us.
In his blog Couch Critic channels his usual weekend swearing, ranting, cheering, whinging and bickering to the written word. Brutally honest opinions of how the Super Rugby action went down from his perspective – no punches pulled, it’s PMS time…
This Blog is brought to you by leading South African bookmaker World Sports Betting – click here to “Bet with the Best”
Don’t miss the trademark Goodforthegame Betting Previews for this coming weekend