WP's dodgy home track record
WP coach Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Western Province may be favourites to win their home Currie Cup semi-final on Saturday, but the Golden Lions are in with a fighting chance - if history is anything to go by.
Bookmakers have the Capetonians as firm favourites to advance to their first home final since 2001, with the Sharks also tipped to beat the Free State Cheetahs in the other semi-final in Durban.
And while there's no doubt that WP - aided by the return of several key Springboks - should beat the Lions with relative ease, it's their poor record in semi-finals at Newlands that will have their supporters sleeping a tad awkwardly on Friday night.
Since the advent of professionalism in 1996, WP and the Stormers (as they are known in Super Rugby) have hosted 11 semi-finals and surprisingly won only five of them - a lowly 45% success rate.
Some of those losses led to the Cape side developing an unwanted tag of faltering under pressure when the expectations are high.
Just think back to the 2012 Super Rugby season when they topped the log after regular season action, only to slip up badly against a spirited Sharks outfit and be denied the chance to host a final for the first time ever.
They never pitched for the 2011 semi-final against bogey side, the Crusaders, who triumphed 29-10.
Further back there were also the unexpected Currie Cup home semi losses to Free State (2004 and 2005), and who can forget the debacle of 1999 when a threatening player strike ruined their preparations and ended in a 33-18 Super 12 loss to the unfancied Otago Highlanders?
While it's true that no team can expect a 100% record for crunch games, for a union like WP/Stormers to boast only a 45% record in home semi-finals must be worrying for their fans.
Mind you, 11 home semi-finals over a 17-year period is hardly anything to write home about for a union of such stature, so maybe there was a reason for their 11-year trophy drought which was broken in spectacular fashion when they stunned the Sharks in last year's Currie Cup final.
WP had developed a reputation for losing big games and were - justifiably it has to be said - written off before last year's final before upsetting a Springbok-laden Sharks outfit with a relatively inexperienced side.
So was last year just it a case of "write us off at your peril and we'll show you" or will Province step up this time and show they do now boast enough experience to win these big games?
With the expectations high on Saturday, I reckon the Lions will use that old "chokers" reputation WP had developed as motivation in their team-talk.
But Province are brimming with confidence and experience and should be able to handle the pressure of being favourites at home, or will they... ?WP/Stormers home semi-final record in professional era:Super Rugby:
1999 - lost to Otago Highlanders (33-18)
2010 - beat Waratahs (25-6)
2011 - lost to Crusaders (29-10)
2012 - lost to Sharks (26-19)Currie Cup:
1997 - beat Golden Lions (38-18)
2000 - beat Golden Lions (43-22)
2001 - beat Free State (40-18)
2004 - lost to Free State (11-17)
2005 - lost to Free State (11-16)
2009 - lost to Blue Bulls (19-21)
2010 - beat Free State (31-7)