As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m a Lions fan and have been one since 1997. It might be because I favour some form of rugby schadenfreude with a gift for seeing the future, considering the Lions’ struggles over the last while especially at Super Rugby level.
But the last two seasons have seen some enterprising rugby originating from New Doornfontein and it was with reasonable expectation that when WP were bracketed with the Golden Lions in this year’s Currie Cup semi-final in Johannesburg, expecting a victory was not completely out of the question, since the Lions managed to do it last year.
As the bell tolled the Streep Trui rumbled over the white and red try-line on full time killing off the Lions’ hope of making their second successive final appearance against the Natal Sharks. It was a bitter pill to swallow, especially as it appeared Western Province were the poorer team in that match.
But the scoreboard is all that matters and as WP marched into the final against the formerly regarded Banana Boys, I know I wasn’t the only one who expected (and with a tinge of revenge hoped) that the Sharks would duly dispatch WP and claim the domestic competition in front of their home fans in Durban.
Blow me down, Western Province showed throughout the 80 minutes the grit and hunger that was expected from the home side, also scoring the only try in the match through Juan de Jongh’s sparking sidewinder of a run (though there was much to be desired about his celebration … I had to endure “the song that shall not be named” throughout the T20 Champions League … enough surely?). Their miserly defence also eroded any physical advantage the Sharks would have held at the contact area. It does help having a monster like Eben Etzebeth in your pack (the man is 21, so there will be many more in the future who will have the pleasure of meeting his shoulder at speed).
It was Province’s first title since Corne Krige lifted the Currie Cup back in 2001 and as much as the sometimes self-important Cape rugby media like to remind us up here on the Highveld and their comrades across the coast, deserved considering how dominant the Stormers have been in Super Rugby without claiming a title.
WP showed the heart and passion which defines the Currie Cup as the bedrock of South Africa’s provincial rugby tradition. With several Lions recruits entering their ranks next season, Elton Jantjies arguably the most valuable considering the Stormers’ shyness near the try-line in recent years, the 2013 Super 15 title is not out the question.
On a side note, judging by the squads released on Friday by New Zealand for next season’s Super Rugby competition, New Zealand has four teams capable of winning the gong, with the only exception being the Blues, as Sir John Kirwan has sought to infuse youth into his revamped squad.