Cape Town - Despite winning the Currie Cup title on Saturday, 2017 was far from the perfect season for Western Province.
In 2016, the Free State Cheetahs lifted the trophy having finished with 10 wins from 10 in the competition.
This year, though, WP weren't even guaranteed a place in the semi-finals until the final round of group stage fixtures.
Inconsistency had plagued the Capetonians' season, and going into their final round robin fixture against the Sharks in Durban they had won six and lost five of their 12 fixtures and were still in with a mathematical chance to miss out on the play-offs.
Losses to the Free State Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas had hurt the WP charge, but captain Chris van Zyl reckons it was their trip to Ellis Park on October 8 in the penultimate weekend of group fixtures that was the catalyst for the way the champions finished their campaign.
That day, Province were poor as they lost 29-20 - a result that placed their future participation in the tournament at risk.
It was then, Van Zyl says, that some kind of switch was flicked in the WP changeroom.
"We felt that we were under-performing often," he said after Saturday's Currie Cup final.
reason we weren’t getting up for the games that we didn’t have to win, but the
games that we had to win we were outstanding.
"After that game (Lions) we realised that
there were no more games to lose and it was a conscious decision made by the
leadership and the team to put our foot down."
Coach John Dobson agreed, and while he couldn't put his finger on what exactly had gone wrong through the course of the season, he could see his side getting better and better at the business end.