The Sharks deservedly earned the title of Currie Cup champions (and the R1,8m winners cheque) by producing a fine 33-19 victory against WP in front of a passionate crowd at Newlands.
The Durban team led from start to end as they took advantage of several penalties conceded by the hosts throughout the clash, while nippy scrumhalf Charl McLeod scored two tries to nudge the team into a comfortable lead.
The defeat for Western Province brought a disappointing end to their first home final in 12 years and dashed their hopes of a fairy-tale end to the season after advancing to the final unbeaten.
Western Province’s play-makers Gio Aplon and Cheslin Kolbe tried hard to create try-scoring chances throughout the match, but the hosts were forced to settle for a single try by inside centre Damian de Allende to show for their efforts as the Sharks’ defence held under pressure.
In stark contrast the visitors created a handful of chances, but were denied on two occasions due to infringements in the lead-up to these attempts.
McLeod’s efforts aside, Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie’s influence was also instrumental in what was a fantastic team effort, as he kept the scoreboard ticking with penalty kicks and drop goals at crucial times, which proved invaluable for their confidence and to keep the side ahead on the scoreboard.
Apart from The Sharks’ impressive defence, they were also superior in the lineouts, and they contested the breakdowns fiercely, which put them on the front foot.
Lambie opened up the scoring with a penalty in the third minute, which McLeod backed up with a stunning try in the fifth minute for a 10-0 lead.
Western Province hit back with a try by De Allende four minutes later who opted to bash his way through the defence for their first and only try of the match.
Two more penalties and a drop goal for Lambie to only two penalties by Western Province flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis before half time earned the hosts a narrow 19-13 half-time lead.
Catrakilis managed to close the gap to 19-16 early in the second half, but Lambie continued to do damage with the boot despite the home team’s efforts as he added two more penalty kicks and a drop goal to his personal tally.
McLeod added his second try of the match 17 minutes in following a good run of play sparked by Lambie, which handed the visitors a morale-boosting 30-19 lead.
The Sharks had a chance to inflate their lead even more with fullback SP Marais dotting down the ball over the tryline, but the attempt was denied as the pass was forward and his foot was in touch.
With time running out Western Province kicked for touch twice with 10 minutes left on the clock in an attempt to stage a late comeback, but both their efforts were countered by the tenacious Sharks’ defence.
With the hosts’ hopes of a victory dashed, Lambie slotted over his second penalty of the half two minutes from the final whistle to secure their first title since 2010.
There was some respite for Western Province, however, as they earned a handsome R1,2m reward for finishing the competition as the runners up.
Western Province 19 (13) – Tries: Damian de Allende. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Catrakilis (3), Kurt Coleman.
Sharks 33 (19) – Tries: Charl McLeod (2). Conversions: Pat Lambie. Penalties: Pat Lambie (5). Drop Goals: Lambie (2).
In the Junior Championships, Western Province were crowned the Under-21 champions following their 30-23 victory against the Blue Bulls in the curtain-raiser to the final, and the Blue Bulls took the Under-19 title following a 35-23 win against the Golden Lions.
In the promotion-relegation clash between the Pumas and Griquas in Nelspruit on Friday, the Pumas earned their promotion into the Premier Division next season thanks to their 33-15 victory.
The Springbok squad for the Tour to Wales, Scotland and France will be announced live on SuperSport Blitz and via media release at 16h30 today. The squad will assemble in Johannesburg on Thursday and will depart for Europe on Saturday.