Western Province were never supposed to win their 34th Currie Cup title on Saturday.
The Sharks had dominated the Currie Cup for most of the season, topped the log and clinched a home semi-final before the final league games, and were at home at Kings Park.
They also had more experience in their team, and little disruption leading up to the Currie Cup final on Saturday.
But that all counted for nothing as Province proved that their victory a few weeks ago in the Shark Tank was no fluke as they produced the ultimate performance for a championship decider in a comprehensive 33-21 triumph.
All the necessary components you need to win finals were on display from Province – and no, that doesn’t mean just playing for territory, strong defence and kicking your penalties.
Yes, all those elements were certainly there. The WP forwards – led by that man-mountain of a tighthead Wilco Louw in the scrums and the skill and grit of Nizaam Carr at No 8 – won so many penalties at the set-piece that it was a surprise that referee Jaco Peyper didn’t go to his pocket for repeated infringements.
Louw – an old-style No 3 who only goes forward – is the rock of the WP scrum, and should be the rock of the Springbok scrum too.
JC Janse van Rensburg and Bongi Mbonambi certainly made their contributions as well in the tight and the loose, and that allowed the WP back row of Carr, Cobus Wiese and Sikhumbuzo Notshe, as well as flyhalf Robert du Preez to play on the front foot.
The Sharks, though, got on to the scoreboard first as early as the fourth minute, with veteran wing Odwa Ndungane – playing in his very last first-class game – rounded off a Marius Louw break.
But Province didn’t lay down for too long, with a solid scrum setting up Huw Jones’ first of two tries on the day five minutes later.
The Sharks took charge after that, with No 8 Daniel du Preez forcing his way over and Curwin Bosch slotting a penalty.
At 15-7, the Durbanites were flying, even though Springbok flank Jean-Luc du Preez was forced off with an ankle injury in the 22nd minute that is likely to rule out him out of the end-of-year tour.
And it didn’t end there, with Bosch showing that he possesses big-match temperament in abundance with another penalty and a brilliant drop goal from just inside the WP half.
Province needed some inspiration to get back into the final, and it was young wunderkind Damian Willemse who provided it.
The WP fullback skipped out of Kobus van Wyk’s ball-and-all tackle, and passed to Dillyn Leyds for a try in the left corner.
That reduced the deficit to six points at 21-15 at halftime to the Sharks, but there was no doubt that Province had regained the momentum.
But the moment of the match came 10 minutes into the second half.
One of the few WP scrums that wasn’t exactly stable saw it wheel, but Carr identified the opportunity to break down the blindside to get behind the Sharks defence.
But the loose forward’s work wasn’t done yet, and he produced a magnificent offload in the tackle for Wiese to run it in.
Coupled with his hard yards in the “dark spaces”, that piece of skill proved why Carr should be in the Springbok squad for the end-of-year tour to Europe.
Robert du Preez missed the conversion from close to the touchline, but 21-20 soon turned into 21-27.
Seabelo Senatla, who hadn’t really been brought into the game up until then, got the ball in a standing start and swatted off Bosch, and Jones cantered over for his second try of the final.
Du Preez kicked two more penalties, while Bosch missed two in the last quarter, and it was Province who jumped up and down at the final whistle.
They weren’t expected to win it, but coach John Dobson’s WP team were most definitely worthy winners.
Sharks 21 – Tries: Odwa Ndungane, Daniel du Preez. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (1). Penalties: Bosch (2). Drop Goal: Bosch (1).
Western Province 33 – Tries: Huw Jones (2), Dillyn Leyds, Cobus Wiese. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalties: Du Preez (3).