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Sharks spoil Newlands farewell for WP

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The Sharks will play the Bulls in next weekend’s Currie Cup final after beating Western Province in the last ever rugby match at Newlands Stadium.

Herschel Jantjies of WP passes the ball during their Currie Cup semi final match against the Sharks at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. Picture: Ashley Vlotman, Gallo Images via BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – A proper send-off to Newlands Stadium was the goal. Disappointment was the result.

The Sharks beat Western Province 19-9 to book a place in next weekend’s Currie Cup final against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

This game was such a big one for a number of reasons. It was a Currie Cup semi-final, it was the last professional game played at Newlands, and the fact that it was the first time these two side met since their Super Rugby clash back in March last year (their previous games this season were cancelled due to Covid) just added to the pre-match spice.

But there was nothing spicy about this game, and while the Sharks can be pleased with the result and their performance overall, Province were downright poor. In a match one would have expected them to come out firing with passion and desire to make the most of their goodbye to the iconic stadium, parts of their game bordered on shocking.

Whenever these two sides met in finals in the last three years, the underdog always got the result, and this year was no different.

While the hosts had most of the territory in the opening quarter, they never really made use of that territorial advantage and it was the Sharks who had something to show for the possession they did have early on.

Province’s decision-making in the first half was questionable. The Sharks conceded a string of penalties. Province, though, only opted to go for posts twice in the opening half, while the Sharks had by that time connected three shots at goal courtesy of Curwin Bosch’s pistol boot to go 9-0 at half time.

Granted, WP’s line-out drive has given them great return throughout the season, but their choice to kick to the corner (and that in a play-off) – especially seeing as it hadn’t worked out until then and the fact that the Sharks had met their challenge at the maul – was puzzling.

So too was the piece of play where they went for a line-out instead of a scrum (against a team who has been struggling in that area even with a full front row prior to this game) after Sharks prop Ox Nche was yellow-carded for collapsing the maul after repeated infringements.

There were a good few misfires from Province close to the line and, worse yet, they showed no intention of revising their tactics. Decision-making at the breakdown was also less than perfect from the hosts.

After the break, John Dobson’s side added another three-pointer in the third quarter, while Bosch contributed two more to get the scoreboard moving (9-12).

The Sharks scored the first try of the match after Thembelani Bholi barged down the blindside after a line-out to crash over in the 68th minute, but the celebrations were short lived as referee Marius van der Westhuizen had the score reviewed and ruled obstruction.

WP replacement loose forward Jaco Coetzee was stretchered off the field around the 70th minute, and things got worse for the hosts when JJ van der Mescht dived over and showed good composure to get the only try in the match. Bosch of course made no mistake and added the extras (9-19).

Western Province had their chances, they didn’t take them, and that was one of the main reasons why their last game at their beloved Newlands ended in such an infelicitous way.

Point scorers:

Western Province: Penalties: Swiel (3) Yellow card: Ernst van Rhyn

Sharks: Tries: JJ van der Mescht Conversions: Curwin Bosch Penalties: Bosch (3) Drop goal: Bosch Yellow card: Ox Nche

@WynonaLouw