CAPE TOWN – He tried to say that it wasn’t a well thought-out plan, but Sharks coach Robert du Preez agreed that his team had managed to “rattle” the Western Province lineout in their 17-12 Currie Cup final victory at Newlands on Saturday.
The home side, slight favourites going into the title decider, never got going on attack, and a large part of that was down to not securing clean ball from the set-piece.
Time and again the Sharks would either make a steal or disrupt the WP lineout possession, which meant that strike-runners such as Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Petersen and Dillyn Leyds had to take a few steps backwards to launch attacks.
The abrasive approach of the Sharks paid dividends on a hot afternoon at Newlands, and they were rewarded for their relentless pursuit of WP with their seventh title.
“Lineouts are always, in tight games like this, vital. And if you don’t get your quality ball from lineouts, then you’re always going to struggle,” Du Preez said after the game at Newlands.
“I wouldn’t say that we really went out there to target them at lineout time. But we knew that if we play a pressure game against them, it’ll take its toll.”
It wasn’t all plain-sailing for the Durbanites, though, as they were unable to turn their physical dominance and territory into points in the first half.
In fact, it was Province through two SP Marais penalties that achieved a 6-0 halftime lead, before Man-of-the-Match Akker van der Merwe broke through to score the first try of the game.
“We had a bit of a nervous start, but we regained our composure in the second half. Coenie’s (Oosthuizen) ball-carries were outstanding,” Du Preez said.
“We didn’t want to kick it deep. They were expecting us to kick deep like we did the whole year, and we kept it short – I think it really worked for us.
“We knew that we had to hang on to the ball, and retain possession when we had the ball, and just put the phases together, because I think we were making big yards with our carries, so that was the plan – and keep on playing.”
It was a famous victory for Du Preez and his team after they lost 33-21 to WP at Kings Park last season, and he said that he will savour the moment.
“It’s always nice to come into someone’s backyard and win. Province are a great team, they’ve played some fantastic rugby.
“So, credit to them and the way that they played. Finals are finals, and on the day, if you take your opportunities, you walk away with something.”