The Sharks advanced to the Currie Cup final after they edged Western Province 19-9 at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The team from Durban will travel to Pretoria to face the Bulls in next weekend’s final.
The match was also billed as WP’s final match at Newlands and the result was certainly not the one WP’s fans wanted.
The two teams went hammer and tongs – in set-pieces, on defence and at the breakdowns – against one another, and both backlines were not shy to give the ball air on a balmy afternoon in Cape Town, where the occasional light drizzle made handling difficult.
The Sharks were under constant pressure in the scrums, but their line-out maul defence was brilliant and must have frustrated WP, who opted to put eight kickable penalties into touch, which played into the visitors’ hands.
Tactical play was also massively important in what was a proper arm wrestle by the two coastal giants – both making their fair share of unforced errors which cost them valuable momentum – but in the end, a solitary try by JJ van der Mescht (lock) and Curwin Bosch’s boot were the difference as the Sharks celebrated qualifying for their first Currie Cup final since 2018.
The Durbanites were quick out of the blocks and led 9-0 after only 12 minutes, with Bosch (flyhalf) slotting three long-range penalty goals as the Capetonians were made to pay for some early lethargy.
This lead stayed in place for most of the first half, and it was almost against the flow of the game as WP were camped in their opponents’ half for most of this time, but the Sharks’ defence held firm, while they also made life difficult for the home team at the breakdowns.
The tide slowly turned though, after a slew of penalties against the visitors and a yellow card to Ox Nche (prop) for repeated infringements.
Although the Sharks defended solidly a few times the Capetonians kept on kicking for the corner, and Tim Swiel (flyhalf) finally called for the kicking tee and added two late penalty goals to shrink the Durbanites’ lead to just three points at the end of the first half.
When Swiel added his third penalty goal in the first minute of the second half, and with the scores tied at 9-9, an exciting half was on the cards.
It certainly was, although more for rugby purists and people enjoying bone-shuddering hits on defence as the rest of the half resulted in a ding-dong affair with neither side willing to give an inch.
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More mistakes crept into play and the kickers’ boots dominated, but they didn’t bother the scorers as the score remained 12-9 until the 68th minute.
That was when WP replacement flank Ernst van Rhyn was yellow-carded after his team had been warned, and the Sharks made the most of their one-man advantage when Thembelani Bholi (replacement loose forward) went over for the first try of the match from a clever short side line-out move.
However, the Sharks’ celebrations were shortlived as the TMO ruled obstruction by Van der Mescht (lock) as Bholi peeled around the left of the line-out.
Four minutes later though – and with WP still only playing with 14 men – the Durbanites finally broke the deadlock and were rewarded for some resilience on attack when Van der Mescht turned from villain to hero by crashing over for his try from close quarters, after yet another attacking lineout.
Bosch added the extras to give his team a 10-point lead with seven minutes left to play, and although Western Province never gave up, they could not breach the Sharks’ defence as the Durbanites took the vital win to book their tickets to Pretoria.
Man of the match: Curwin Bosch gets the award for his performance. He controlled things nicely for the Sharks and he kept the scoreboard ticking over with his boot.
For Western Province:
Pens: Swiel 3
Try: Van der Mescht
Pens: Bosch 3
Yellow cards: Ox Nche (Sharks, 30 – repeated infringements); Ernst van Rhyn (WP, 68 – repeated infringements)
Western Province: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ruhan Nel.
Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fezokuhle Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Stuart Berry
– Rugby365 with SA Rugby
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