Western Province coach John Dobson revealed that he and his charges had spent the week in the build-up to the game ragging flyhalf Rob du Preez about coming up against his twin brothers in the final round of the regular Currie Cup season.
WP needed to win with a bonus point to claim a home semifinal‚ which they duly did with a 31-20 victory over the Sharks at the weekend.
The visitors overturned a 13-3 half-time deficit, with Rob du Preez producing a superb performance with two tries‚ four conversions and a penalty for a 21-point haul.
It was an eye-catching display from the flyhalf‚ who has been linked to a move back to Durban at the end of the season, where he will join up with his father (Robert senior, the Sharks coach) and twin brothers Jean-Luc and Daniel.
"We gave Rob a hard time in the build-up to this game‚" Dobson said. "The guys were asking him if he was going to ‘sort out his sisters today’ because we thought Jean-Luc and Daniel were both playing.
"Look‚ Rob had a lot riding on this game if it is true that he is returning to Durban because he is playing for a place in the Sharks team. He is also a candidate for the Springboks’ end-of-year tour, so he had a personal score to settle and the referee actually told him to calm down after scoring his first try.
"We were under a lot of pressure for a home semifinal. We are probably one of the better teams in the tournament in terms of talent‚ so for us not to have secured a home semifinal would have been an underperformance. What makes it tough on teams like us is that we will face a Lions team full of returning Springboks."
It also says a lot about the state of the Currie Cup that the Blue Bulls made the semifinals despite losing 60% of their matches, while the Golden Lions lost half their games and still
The Sharks have been the form team, recording 10 wins in a row‚ which were bookended by defeats in round one and round 12.
The Bulls will travel to Durban to face the Sharks‚ a team that won 83% of their matches (10 out of 12). The Golden Lions have a trip to Cape Town to take on Western Province in the
other semifinal and the Cape side won nearly 60% of their matches (seven out 12).
The Currie Cup is a tournament structure that rewards mediocrity. With seven teams in the competition‚ only three are eliminated after a laborious 12-match pool phase. The tournament would be better served if the top two advanced directly to a final. But play-offs mean money and an extra game attracting 30,000-plus fans at Newlands and King’s Park‚ as is the case in 2017‚ is vital income to struggling unions.
Lions coach Swys de Bruin was left incredulous at WP’s win over the Sharks.
The Cape side’s victory in their last league match denied the Lions the chance to host a semifinal even before the Johannesburg team kicked off in their 44-17 victory over the Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park.
"How did they beat the Sharks so easily?" De Bruin demanded to know of Western Province’s win in Durban.
"We didn’t watch that game. I would love to see what happened there because to beat the Sharks in Durban like that is something we have to watch‚" De Bruin said‚ consciously stopping just short of suggesting he smelt a rat.