DHL Western Province produced a strong second-half display and held their nerve late in the hard-fought Currie Cup Final in Durban on Saturday for a 33-21 victory and their first title since 2014.
The hosts edged their way to a 21-15 halftime lead to the delight of in front of a passionate crowd of 32 562 people at Growthpoint Kings Park, but the Capetonians fought back strongly in the second half to score 23 unanswered points and claim the coveted title.
The win marked the Cape side’s third away victory in five Currie Cup finals against the Cell C Sharks in Durban since 1995, and it capped off a rewarding day for the union from Cape Town as they also secured the SA Rugby U21 Championship title in the curtain-raiser to the main final, while the Xerox Golden Lions secured the SA Rugby U19 Championship title.
In the main game, the home team opened up the scoring in the third minute when veteran winger Odwa Ndungane dived in for a try, but this was cancelled out minutes later as DHL Western Province centre Huw Jones crossed the chalk to level the scores at 7-7.
Cell C Sharks No 8 Dan du Preez broke the deadlock in the 17th minute as he crashed over following good pressure close to the tryline, but their lead was reduced to 15-10 as his brother, DHL Western Province flyhalf Robert du Preez, slotted a penalty goal early in the fourth quarter.
The home team again inflated their score with a penalty goal and drop goal by flyhalf Curwin Bosch, but a vital try by DHL Western Province and Springbok winger Dillyn Leyds, who took advantage of space in the corner, on the stroke of halftime saw the hosts enter the break 21-15 ahead.
The opening exchanges of the second half were tight, but the visitors struck first 11 minutes in as flanker Cobus Wiese scored in the corner to see DHL WP move to within a point of the Cell C Sharks on the scoreboard.
The Capetonians took the lead for the first time in the 54th minute as Jones again navigated his way to the line for their fourth try, which Robert du Preez converted and backed up with a penalty goal five minutes later to push the visitors into an encouraging 30-21.
The Cell C Sharks were dealt a blow in the 69th minute as Dan du Preez received a yellow card and the visitors capitalised on this as Robert du Preez slotted over a penalty goal, which left the hosts with the tough task of having to score two tries in the last eight minutes to keep alive their hopes of a victory. The visitors, however, managed to shut them out in the dying minutes and sealed the 33-21 victory.
The SA Rugby U21 Championship Final between the Vodacom Blue Bulls and DHL Western Province also proved to be an arm-wrestle, as both teams ran hard on attack, which saw them enter the break tied at 22-22 before DHL Western Province’s effective goal-kicking allowed them to secure a narrow 48-41 victory.
The Pretoria side out-scored the Capetonians six tries to five, with scrumhalf Embrose Papier earning a hat-trick, but DHL WP’s four conversions, three penalty goals and two drop goals handed them the edge on the scoreboard.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls struck first with a try by Papier – who scored two of his team’s three first-half tries – in the seventh minute, while DHL Western Province scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, winger Duncan Saal and centre David Brits touched down for the Capetonians. Each side also kicked a penalty goal in the half to enter the break at 22-22.
DHL Western Province, however, took control of the second half thanks to their pressure on attack combined with their ability to convert their chances into points, which saw them score two drop goals and two penalty goals to add to their two second-half tries. The Vodacom Blue Bulls touched down three times in the half. But despite this they fell short on the scoreboard.
In the SA Rugby U19 Championship Final, the Xerox Golden Lions dominated from the outset against Toyota Free State as they created try-scoring opportunities at will and rounded them off to secure a rewarding 55-24 victory.
The Gauteng side opened up the scoring in the early exchanges of the first half with back-to-back penalty goals by flyhalf Gianni Lombard, which they backed up with tries by Louritz van der Schyff, winger Wandisile Simelane and hooker PJ Botha, while they limited Toyota Free State to a penalty goal for a 25-3 halftime lead.
They continued this fine form in the second half despite replacement forward Arno van Wyk getting a red card in the 48th minute as their fine attacking form earned them four more tries – one of which marked Simelane’s second. Toyota Free State, in turn, showed their fighting spirit to score three converted tries in the half, but this was too little too late as they went down 55-24.
In the Currie Cup promotion-relegation match on Friday evening, Tafel Lager Griquas outscored Currie Cup First Division champions, the Down Touch Griffons, nine tries to four in Kimberley for an emphatic 59-26 victory in a match that featured two hat-tricks – by Tafel Lager Griquas winger Ederies Arendse and Down Touch Griffons fullback Selvyn Davids.
The Welkom side tried hard to make their presence felt and gave everything, but Tafel Lager Griquas were more effective at creating point-scoring chances and rounding them off, and the rewards followed, with the side registering a comfortable victory.
Results and scorers:
Currie Cup Final – Cell C Sharks 21 (21) DHL Western Province 33 (15)
Cell C Sharks – Tries: Dan Du Preez, Odwa Ndungane. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty Goals: Bosch (2). Drop Goal: Bosch.
DHL Western Province – Tries: Cobus Wiese, Dillyn Leyds, Huw Jones (2). Conversions: Robert du Preez (2). Penalty Goals: Robert du Preez (3).
SA Rugby U21 Championship Final – Vodacom Blue Bulls 41 (22) DHL Western Province 48 (22)
Vodacom Blue Bulls – Tries: Embrose Papier (3), Andell Loubser, Stedman Gans, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Tinus De Beer (2), Kurt Webster (2). Penalty Goal: Tinus De Beer.
DHL Western Province – Tries: Juarno Augustus, Herschel Jantjies, David Brits, Duncan Saal (2). Conversions: Tiaan Swanepoel (4). Penalty Goal: Tiaan Swanepoel (3). Drop Goals: Tiaan Swanepoel, Herschel Jantjies.
SA Rugby U19 Championship Final – Xerox Golden Lions 55 (25) Toyota Free State 24 (3)
Xerox Golden Lions – Tries: Louritz van der Schyff, Wandisile Simelane (2), PJ Botha, Manuel Rass, Austin Davids, Shaun Williams. Conversions: Gianni Lombard (4). Penalty Goals: Lombard (4).
Toyota Free State – Tries: Rassie Breedt (2), Saida Xamlashe. Conversions: Lubabalo Dobela (3). Penalty Goal: Dobela.
Currie Cup Promotion-relegation match – Tafel Lager Griquas 59 (26) Down Touch Griffons 26 (14)
Tafel Lager Griquas – Tries: Tertius Kruger, Ederies Arendse (3), AJ Coertzen, De Wet Kruger, Wendal Wehr, Tiaan Dorfling, Shaun McDonald. Conversions: George Whitehead (7).
Down Touch Griffons – Tries: Selvyn Davids (3), Penalty Try. Conversions: Jaun Kotze, Tertius Maarman.