Rugby Watch

Catrakilis does it for the Western Province

Currie Cup comes to rest in Cape Town
Currie Cup.jpg

Western Province clinched a sensational 19-16 Absa Currie Cup final win to lift the coveted trophy a 33rd time on Saturday at Newlands. It is a match that underlined the age-old truth that a team without a general is like a boat without a rudder.

Although the attacking brand produced by both Province and the Xerox Golden Lions, made it an atypical final, the superb defensive effort by both teams ensured that no team could run away with an avalanche of tries.

History also repeated itself as the winning flyhalf played a pivotal role in securing the spoils for Western Province.

Demetri Catrakilis was Western Province’s general. He was on song as kicker, king-pin and play-maker, while his direct opposite, Marnitz Boshoff, was off the boil and missed four kickable penalties.

His final kick, from an acute angle in a swirling wind, could have been the equalizer, but he missed it to spark almost unprecedented celebrations at Newlands.

Historically, flyhalves have played incredibly important roles in winning finals. Naas Botha, from 1977 to 1981 and from 1987 to 1991, was a massive factor for Northern Transvaal, while Michael du Plessis was the triump card for Western Province in their five glory-years from 1982 to 1986.

Patrick Lambie in 2010 for the Sharks, Willem de Waal in 2007 for the Free State Cheetahs and Elton Jantjes in 2011 for the Golden Lions were other examples of flyhalves stamping their authority on the game to win the Currie Cup for their provinces.

They absorbed the pressure masterfully and showing BMT in the moment critique.

Catrakilis produced a razor-sharp off-load that put Jaco Taute in possession for a crucial try in the final on Saturday.

Taute still had to make the hard yards and produced a step that completely bewildered Lionel Mapoe and the rest of the Lions’ defensive wall.

Maybe that step by Taute was not as good as Carel du Plessis’s that left Northern Transvaal bewildered in the final in 1982. But it will still go down as a memorable Currie Cup final five-pointer.

Taute fluffed his lines in the 22nd minute when Nazeem Carr made a telling break, darted for the line and produced a good off-load. The inside centre dropped the ball with the line beckoning.

Western Province should be applauded for their win as they were the play-makers and started with greater assurance than the visitors.

They played enterprisingly in the first half, hardly missed a beat and allowed the ball to go through several phases. The Lions made a stuttering and nervous start and just seemed unsettled.

The Lions clawed their way back into the contest in the second half after trailing 0-13 at half-time, thanks to excellent use of possession.

Province’s excellent defensive wall, however, held firm. They created a crucial cushion with two penalties late in the second half.

Boshoff was again an offender when he held onto the ball with Michael Rhodes claiming a legal turn-over.

It was a final that will feature when the great play-off games of the past 25 years are packaged, as there were excellent attacks and counter-attacks that had the crowd on their feet.

The Lions might have missed their usual spark on the attack, while Western Province did not allow the visitors their customary momentum and build-up.

A flurry of tries consequently did not materialize from the visitors’ perspective, while Province also could not always achieve the objective of scoring five-pointers regularly.

The Lions edged Province in the scrums. The hosts held the upper-hand in the lineouts and poached possession at least three times.

The Currie Cup competition of 2014 will always be remembered for the much-improved attacking style by most teams, the superb off-loading and the exciting X-factor which lured more spectators to games despite the absence of several senior Springboks.

Almost every team possessed a player or two who could breach the defensive line with some balanced running and side-stepping.

Western Province had Seabelo Senatla, Cheslin Kolbe and Kobus van Wyk, while the Lions produced Ruan Combrinck, Howard Mnisi, Jaco van der Walt and Courtnall Skosan.

Springbok material?

There were several other eye-catching performances during the 2014-campaign.

Are there potential new Springboks amongst the players who contested the Currie Cup final?

Carr, Senatla, Kobus van Wyk, Schalk van der Merwe, Kolbe, Mnisi and Van der Walt have surely put their hands up, while Jaco Kriel and Julian Redelinghuys could also be in the Bok frame.

Ultimately, though, the Springbok selectors might be left with a quandary as they want to retain the continuity from the last half of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

They also would like to reward the stalwarts that powered South Africa to wins at Newlands and Ellispark against Australia and New Zealand.

For Western Province, a season that started alarmingly, finished brightly.

Midway through the Super Rugby campaign, the Stormers were in tatters and some critics questioned the wisdom of continuing with Allister Coetzee, but the Cape Town-based management team weathered the storm.

Yet, it did not happen without Coetzee and his support crew realizing the folly of using an outdated old-school pattern of rugby. A more fluent and seamless attacking approach was introduced midway through the Super Rugby competition.

A brave new world of attacking Province rugby has emerged. Long may it continue!

by Fanie Heyns

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