Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following this past weekend’s Currie Cup semi-finals:
1. SP Marais WP’s MVP!
For the first time in this year's event, Western Province were outscored in the tries department, but it was the reliable boot of wing SP Marais who helped them book a spot in the final.
WP beat the Bulls 35-32 after extra time despite being outscored by four tries to two.
Marais was red-hot - he contributed 25 points via the boot (succeeding with nine out of 10 shots at goal) and again proved how vital a reliable goal-kicker is in the pressure-cooker environment of knockout rugby.
Marais also scored a try in a personal contribution of 30 points and was duly rewarded with the man-of-the-match accolade.
2. WP’s power scrum almost proves their undoing
Western Province headed into Saturday’s semi-final in confident mood having thrashed the Blue Bulls 34-7 in a weather-shortened game in Pretoria.
The foundation of their win was laid at scrum time where they destroyed the Bulls.
It was more of the same at Newlands on Saturday, as the hosts continued to pummel the Bulls in the scrums.
Springbok tighthead Wilco Louw spearheaded the WP charge and the Bulls initially had no answer.
But credit should go to the Bulls as they gradually worked their way back into the contest with their scrum improving in the second period.
Springbok Trevor Nyakane, who was moved to loosehead for the semi-final, struggled initially against Louw but got his groove back towards the end of the game where he helped push WP off their own ball.
The hosts had a scrum on their own tryline and just needed to get the ball out to book their spot in the final.
However, they couldn’t secure possession as the Bulls won a turnover from which they scored in the corner, leaving flyhalf Manie Libbok with an opportunity to win the game with his conversion attempt...
3. Bulls captain admits he didn’t know the regulations
There was a comical moment in the post-game press conference at Newlands when Bulls captain Hanro Liebenberg admitted that he was unsure of the extra-time regulations.
The Bulls had the upper hand heading into extra-time, as the tournament’s regulations stated that if the teams were level after 100 minutes of action, then the team who had scored the most tries during the game would advance to the final.
The Bulls had outscored WP by four tries to two, so the onus was on the hosts to go out and win the game in extra-time.
WP took a 35-32 lead in the first period of extra-time, but had the Bulls clawed their way back via a penalty, they would have reached the final.
Liebenberg didn’t know this and said in the press conference that he thought Western Province would go through because they had finished top of the standings.
“We could have gone for the drop goal... but at the end of the day, they told us that if we draw after 20 minutes (of extra-time), Western Province will still be going through due to the log, something like that. I don’t know if that is true, so we were looking for the try to get the win at the end of the day," Liebenberg said.
I’m not sure who told Liebenberg this, as his coach Pote Human was quick to state that in the coach’s box they were aware that a draw would have seen them advance courtesy of scoring more tries.
“We had it like that up in the box,” Human was quick to point out.
Questions however need to be asked why that message from the coach's box was not relayed on to the field...
4. The Currie Cup has potential!
Despite average crowd attendances (especially at Kings Park), the on-field performances in both semi-finals were exciting to say the least.
The injection of Springbok stars no doubt added some intensity to the competition and this past weekend’s action reminded that perhaps there’s life yet in the old competition.
The single-round of matches introduced this year is perhaps the way forward and if SA Rugby can find a way to introduce Springbok players more often into the Currie Cup, it may attract more spectators and sponsors.
It’s no secret that rugby fans have become bored with the dragged-out Super Rugby schedule and a possible amendment in future fixture lists could bring the Currie Cup back into the spotlight.
One thing is certain, the tournament will not harbour interest in local fans if the Springboks aren’t involved.
Finding ways of incorporating the Boks into future schedules could prove vital in the future of the domestic showpiece.
But the past weekend proved that the Currie Cup still has a pulse... and we’ll see more of that at a packed Newlands this weekend...
5. Sharks young gun’s spectacular Bok chase!
A big talking point from the Sharks-Lions clash in Durban was when Sharks substitute Aphelele Fassi chased down Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi.
With the Sharks leading 23-10 in the 63rd minute and hot on the attack inside the Lions’ 22m area, Dyantyi - one of the finds of the Springbok season - intercepted and looked certain to score under the posts.
But, remarkably, Fassi hauled him in and social media was abuzz with amazement at the speed of the young Durbanite.
The Lions did end up scoring moments later but it was not enough for them to haul in the Sharks.
Fassi, who is only 20, has been tipped for higher honours by many in Sharks rugby circles...