WP good, or Currie Cup bad?

Brenden Nel

This year’s Currie Cup has produced a mixture of emotions, from the frustration of a shortened competition to the excitement of some sublime tries.

However, one question has become more pressing with every weekend – is Western Province that much better than everyone else, or has the standard of their opponents just dropped so badly?

Firstly, it must be said that the constant tinkering with the competition has done it no favours – the number of teams seems to change every year. Neither has the exodus of players overseas, compounded by the recent advent of Japanese clubs taking top stars away from the competition during the domestic season.

The drawn-out focus on Super Rugby hasn’t helped promote the domestic product and, coupled with some ineffective marketing and a general apathy among rugby unions about how to get fans back into seats, the competition has generally suffered.

But rugby purists are enthralled by the Currie cup every year, and the tries – even though the standard may be lower than Super Rugby – brings out the tribalism in each of us. So it’s worth questioning whether Western Province, who swept all before them and secured a full house of bonus points, play at a very high level, or whether the rest of the teams have fallen off.

It is a question that popped up in the monsoon rain that limited the Loftus derby between the Bulls and Province to just one half, especially as the visitors had played exceptionally well to record a 34-7 lead in the opening 40 minutes.

A format of single round matches, including a four-week break (as in the case of the Blue Bulls) has made it difficult to determine just how strong the competition is. For everyone except Province, of course, and that’s no fault of theirs.

They possess an experienced management team that has come through the ranks, been backed for four years and have coached together as a unit. That settled approach is a far cry from what has happened at Loftus, or even across the Jukskei for that matter. And while the Sharks always seem to have the best team on paper, in reality they tend to fall foul of their own demons when it’s crunch time. The Durban semi-final against the Lions is possibly the trickiest game of the season for them.

But it is more than the coaching that has made Province a success. They’ve built their rugby on the basis of good defence, solid set pieces and a will to run the ball when it has mattered.

And while some have talked them up for playing sexy rugby, forward play has been the bedrock of their success, coupled with a plethora of experience that other sides don’t have, such as JJ Engelbrecht, Jano Vermaak and Dylan Lleyds. SP Marais has upward of 50 Super Rugby caps while lock Chris van Zyl’s leadership has put WP in the driver’s seat.

It is that which has made the difference and which, when coupled with the raw talent of Damian Willemse or Sergeal Petersen’s electric runs, makes it look special. JD Schickerling’s progress in the second row is the envy of other unions and when you get Wilco Louw back in the frame of mind he displayed at Loftus, few teams can contend with Province.

The Pro14 would probably be a better measure of this WP team – they would certainly be a better bet than the two SA teams in the competition right now.

Province have dominated all comers this Currie Cup and they may well romp to the title in just more than one week’s time. Regardless of questions about the standard of SA’s premier domestic competition, WP deserves kudos for putting together a blend of youth and experience that gels just right, and assembling a tight and talented coaching team.

- Brenden Nel

Let's chat

  • John Comyn

    Don’t you just hate it when a pundit talks up your side before a big game with statements like “they may well romp to the title” Asseblief tog Brenden! I know where you are going with this.

    • Barry

      Yes, brilliant, brilliant, I am sure they will win!!!!!!

  • Chris Mouton

    Yeah, that’s all good and well and then they screw the pooch in Super Rugby. Every single year they get talked up and loads of sympathy with regards to their completely unfair schedule or the amount of injuries. And then they fall short and Kleenex makes a profit. That being said, I think Fleck is a useless coach and Dobson needs to replace him pronto. Maybe then their fortune will change.

    • Andre Kruger

      Didn’t know the Super Rugby season was already up and running. One can’t really knock Province for their Currie cup form so had to find something else to moan about eh ?

      • Chris Mouton

        André, so what if they dominate the Currie Cup? It’s a watered down competition with a lot of star players not playing due to national contracts or playing in Japan. Everybody knows the Currie Cup these days are used to create depth for Super Rugby. So, I say again, so what if they do well in Currie Cup? Why can’t they translate that form to Super Rugby? It’s virtually the same team playing bar Kolisi, PSdT and Etzebeth. The only difference I can see is the two coaches.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Amen old chap. Cheers.

          • Greg Shark

            WOW…just 4 words…incredible!

  • Gerhard Botha

    WP good. Yes. Currie Cup bad. Yes. I can’t see anyone stopping this WP side.

  • Albert

    Eish, all this talking up WP is bound to put a big curse on them. Watch the Snarks go on to win at Newlands.

    • Andrew

      Sharks still have to get over a side with Boks back….

      • Greg Shark

        did that with absolute ease…and now what…?

    • John Comyn

      Ya Brenden is a big Bulls supporter. He’s trying to put the kiss of death on Province!

  • boyo

    “And while the Sharks always seem to have the best team on paper, in reality they tend to fall foul of their own demons when it’s crunch time” based on what? The stormers have lost more super rugby knock out games than any other franchise. The sharks have won three currie cups in the last 10 years and lost three in the finals which is exactly the same record as province.

    Does no one think its a problem when a writer is so oblivious to facts.

    • Pieter Loots

      Games that the Sharks should have won easily, because of the players that were in the team at that time, were lost. That is what he means. I often look at the team sheet before a game and think that there is no way the Sharks can lose, and then ‘viola!’, they do just that.

      • boyo

        If he had said what you said I would not have minded based on super rugby(Think we have only lost to province in the Currie cup in the last two years?) but he says…

        “The sharks always have the best team on paper” the sharks certainly didn’t have the best team on paper in 2015 and 2016 when they didn’t even make the currie cup semi’s in fact it was a very young unknown side at that stage. This year WP and possibly the lions have stronger sides on paper so maybe he was correct for last year which seems a very narrow band to classify as always?

        He then sates further:

        “in reality they tend to fall foul of their own demons when it’s crunch time” This is a bit hard to justify when we are the joint most successful Currie Cup team over the last 10 years with province and only the Cheetahs have a better win rate in Finals during that period.

        There was certainly a time though from 1999-2003 where we were struggling with our demons having lost 4 finals in a row but most of the current team were about 8 years old when that sequence ended so I wonder if the writer needs to have a look at more recent games you know how he gets sort of paid to do.

  • Barry

    It is where Province should be, when you consider the resource that they have at their disposal!

    Some of the best rugby feeder schools, two varsities, the biggest rugby playing community of all the Provinces, the Sports Science institute and a Coaching structure that the other Provinces can only envy. They also have a great marketing arm in the form of Rob Houwing and Gavin Rich, who do a wonderful job in convincing “Non-believers” to convert to a greater cause!!!

    This was one of the regular discussions during SR 2018, when we constantly got excuses from Fleck and co.

    To my mind, the biggest tribute must go to John Dobson and his support staff. On paper there are not an awful number of stars in the base side, remembering that they were without their Springbok component when they they trounced the Lions – one of their best performances. So it takes a pretty good coach to be able to draw the chaps together and get them to play for each other in the way that this side is doing. Is it not similar to what Ackerman did with the Lions a few seasons back?

    It will be great to see Dobson getting just reward, at last, for the tremendous effort he has put in, when come the end of February 2019 we see him walk out with his new side at Loftus..Lol, stranger things have happened

    • John Comyn

      Fleckie has got a bit of a bum rap and has had his problems over the last two seasons. I can tell you he works closely with Dobson who I rate highly. I think Fleck will get another season. The other factor is they have a nice mix of youth and experience. Chris van Zyl is probably one of the most underrated players in SA and has a huge influence in this side. Similar to the effect Whiteley has at The Lions.

      • Barry

        John, not sure about the Fleck bit, I think he’s had plenty of time and opportunity, but I would certainly agree with you on Chris Van Zyl. I’m pretty sure we could teach him to surf – he’d love Durbs!

      • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

        Spot on re Van Zyl. Much like Ali Vermaak, massively under rated

        • Herman Schroder?

          And SR ?? 11th on a 15 team log not an indication of a well led team which applies to Kolisi as well of course. When the Lions did well in SR we were reminded that SR is not test rugby. If that’s the case then where does this watered down competition fit into the greater scheme of things ?

          Remember WP won the CC last year yet flopped badly in SR. Fleck like AC before him have been a blight on the WP / Stormers development over the years and another year of Fleck will only prove futile once more. Give the deserved Dobson a go he can’t do any worse than the incumbent. Cheers.

  • Anton

    Mark my words, tomorrow the WP pack is going to start where they left off last weekend. Wilco is going to destroy Trevor Nyankane, last weekend he suffer against Ali Vermaak.

    • Greg Shark

      and now the game has been played and WP were damn lucky to eventually prevail……..? It could have been a long fall from that arrogant perch…for you….Bulls actually deserved to win and that’s like a chicken bone in the throat!

    • Herman Schroder?

      Wilco is overrated my friend. Does not dominate when faced with a half decent pack and is cumbersome around the park. Modern props need grunt plus skills. Cheers.

    • Barry

      Anton, Bulls are down and out, it really isn’t a celebration. Actually sad to see, the North verses South derby is usually a spectacle!

  • Herman Schroder?

    Wilco is overrated by test standards my friend. Does not dominate when faced with a half decent pack and is cumbersome around the park. Modern props need grunt plus skills. Cheers.

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