Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points after Saturday’s Currie Cup final between Western Province and the Sharks at Newlands:
1. WP’s lineout woes
Western Province’s lineout completely malfunctioned and the hosts lost as many as six of their own throw-ins.
On the odd occasion they managed to win possession, it was not clean ball and it put them under pressure.
WP won several penalties in the match, but were unable to launch any meaningful attacks as the subsequent lineout platform was absent.
It was no surprise that hooker Bongi Mbonambi was substituted at half-time, but his replacement Scarra Ntubeni hardly improved with his throw-ins.
2. Rugby not all about scrummaging
Western Province gradually gained the ascendancy at scrum time as the game wore on with loosehead prop Alistair Vermaak particularly impressive.
Unfortunately for the home fans, this was the only area their team managed to gain the upper hand. They appeared to have no idea what to do with possession won and spent large parts of the afternoon executing meaningless kicks into no-man’s land.
WP played an attractive brand of rugby the entire tournament but that approach went out the back door during the playoffs.
It cost them dearly and they were also lucky to beat the Bulls in the previous week’s semi-finals...
3. Akker spearheads Sharks' title surge
Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe was sublime and thoroughly deserved his man-of-the-match accolade.
He scored the Sharks’ first try and gave the visitors some much needed go forward at critical stages.
A few eyebrows were raised when Van der Merwe was not included in the Springbok squad named by coach Rassie Erasmus after the final.
I’ll agree that Van der Merwe can count himself unlucky but it did not come as a surprise... it was after all not a secret that Erasmus was going to include Schalk Brits in his plans.
4. Away team bosses WP-Sharks finals
Former Springbok captain John Smit mentioned in the build-up to the final that he thought the Sharks would win as in recent times the away side seems to handle the pressure better when these teams clash in big games.
Saturday was another case in point as Western Province clearly could not handle the burden of expectation - as so often happens in pressure-cooker games at Newlands.
The Sharks’ triumph was the fourth time in a row that the away team had won a Currie Cup final between the respective teams.
Last year, WP prevailed 33-21 at Kings Park, in 2013 the Sharks won 33-19 at Newlands and in 2012 WP won 25-18 at Kings Park.
Overall, the teams have now contested nine Currie Cup finals, with WP winning five and the Sharks four.
5. Poor advertisement for SA Rugby
Saturday’s attendance was a meagre 27 600.
A half-empty Newlands would have been unthinkable for a Currie Cup final a few years ago.
The Currie Cup has become watered down and more needs to be done to get the Springboks involved in the event.
The quality of rugby dished up in the final was also not a good advertisement for South African rugby.
As mentioned, WP had gone into their shells after dazzling during the round-robin stages, while the Sharks merely ground out a deserved victory.
It was not easy on the eye - the Durbanites made several inexcusable handling errors and gave away countless penalties.
There seems to be an understanding in South African rugby that attractive rugby should go out the back door in finals.
The final at Newlands was a stark contrast to New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup final where Auckland defeated Canterbury 40-33 after extra-time.
Both teams were not afraid to have a go and dished up a thoroughly enjoyable final, played in atrocious rainy conditions.