The Sharks caused one of the upsets of the season after they shocked Western Province 17-12 in a nail-biting Currie Cup final at Newlands on Saturday.
Province, unbeaten and so potent on attack throughout the campaign, failed to score any tries while the Sharks took their chances better, being rewarded with the only two visits across the whitewash.
Interestingly, this was the fourth straight final between these teams where the visiting team has come away with the spoils.
It’s the Sharks’ first title since 2013, ironically when they also won at Newlands.
Who was the star in this match?
Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe was very much deserving of this accolade. He was his typical busy-body self, rearing his head everywhere on the field, assisting with slowing down Province’s ball and also rounding off the Durbanites’ vital first try. In a game where the lineouts were a mess, his throwing was solid.
Key moments and themes
- In a tense game, played in extremely warm conditions in front of 27 604 spectators with frequent water breaks, the Sharks’ physicality unsettled the hosts, who just couldn’t get their expansive game going in the face of some very hostile tackling. As a result, it was down to two penalties by Province leftwing SP Marais in the 19th and 36th minutes to give his side a 6-0 advantage at halftime.
- Province had threatened to destroy the Sharks scrum during stages of the first half, with tighthead Wilco Louw putting the heat on opponent Juan Schoeman. But their lineout was an absolute mess and the Sharks’ tactical approach ensured they enjoyed the better of the territorial exchanges and never looked out of it.
- In fact, the Sharks were close on at least two occasions in the first half to scoring when prop Thomas du Toit and flank Jean-Luc du Preez’s attempts in the 30nd and 32nd minutes were turned down by TMO Shaun Veldsman. Du Toit was caught short and Du Preez frustratingly lost the ball. Vitally, it didn’t short-circuit their confidence.
- Continuing to pounce on counter-attacking opportunities through smart breaks and some fabulous off-loading, the Sharks broke their duck through Van der Merwe after centre Marius Louw scythed through a gap. The visitors brilliantly combined physicality with patience.
- That template was evident again with a superb tackle on Province fullback Dillyn Leyds, which led to replacement flanker Jacques Vermeulen affecting the turnover. The Sharks recycled efficiently and again kept their nerve for Paul to power over. It was nothing less than they deserved.
Western Province – Penalties: SP Marais (3).
Sharks – Tries: Akker van der Merwe, Tyler Paul. Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalty: Du Preez.