Western Province centre Ruhan Nel is stopped in his tracks by Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez at Newlands. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

CAPE TOWN – Sometimes a perfect season isn’t enough. And nobody will know that better than Western Province .

After going through all six of their Currie Cup league games unbeaten and having struggled past the Blue Bulls in a thriller of a semi-final last week, it was Province’s opponents the Sharks who lifted the cup in a hot Cape Town yesterday.

And given their performance, they sure deserved the 17-12 victory at Newlands.

The Durbanites were the more clinical side and did most of the playing, while WP never really looked like scoring.

After a decent effort in the opening quarter, things went downhill from there for the 2017 champions.

It was a massive effort from the Sharks pack, while the hosts made an already unpleasant afternoon (thanks to the weather) even worse with a poor lineout showing.

The Sharks also did well, in the first half especially, to combat Province’s scrum – an area which had been one of the hosts’ biggest assets throughout the 2018 season.

For all the brilliance Province produced on attack this year, it was a rather unusual sight seeing the blue-and-white hoops presenting no real threat on attack.

A number of kicks straight down the middle didn’t do them any favours, and the chase rarely made up for what those kicks lacked.

And while playing for territory was always going to be important against the Sharks, handing over possession like that should certainly have been a lesson Province learnt early on.

They were also on the wrong side of turnover possession a number of times, and it was in the last 20 minutes that the gravity of that sin really hurt them – when they were on the attack and the Sharks easily turned it over at least twice, stopping any possibility of WP coming back from a 17-12 deficit.

Another surreal aspect was the fact that Province didn’t score a single try after having scored a total of 40 five-pointers in the league stage and the semi-final, while the Sharks ran in two through Man-of-the-Match Akker van der Merwe and Tyler Paul.

Province’s points came from three penalties by SP Marais and one by Damian Willemse – who showed his mettle on defence at No 12.

One of those tries perfectly showed just why the black-and-white outfit are so dangerous when it comes to their ball-carrying, and their ability to keep the ball going through offloads.

After leading 6-0 at halftime, WP only managed two more penalties in the second half, while Van der Merwe’s early second-half try gave them a 7-6 lead.

Province took a 9-7 lead again after another Marais penalty, but that was the last time the hosts would enjoy being in the position as the Sharks went 10-9 and 17-9 up after that, before Willemse added the last penalty kick to take the score to 17-12.

Ironically, since 1995, whenever these two sides had met each other in a final, it was the team who had lost the last league game between them who would go on to celebrate with the coveted cup.

Province managed to break that trend last season when they won the final in Durban , but this season, things went back to “normal”.

Another interesting final stat reads that in the last eight out of nine playoff matches at Newlands, the team who led at halftime went on to win the game.

It didn’t help Province lift the cup for the 35th time, however.

Points-Scorers:

Western Province 12 – Penalties: SP Marais (3), Damian Willemse (1).

Sharks 17 – Tries: Akker van der Merwe, Tyler Paul. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalty: Du Preez (1).


Weekend Argus

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