We take a look at some of the crucial moments during Western Province's topsy turvy run to Currie Cup success in 2012.
Change in style: As the Stormers, the men from the Cape's game was based heavily on defence and this style didn't bring any success during this year's Super Rugby campaign. Coach Allister Coetzee had a rethink before the start of the Currie Cup campaign and opted to combine their defence orientated pattern with a more adventurous style of play. It didn't always go according to plan but the end ultimately justified the means.
Opening round defeat: Western Province started their campaign with a narrow 25-23 loss to the Sharks at Newlands in Cape Town on August 11. The match was significant as Province introduced youngsters like JP du Plessis (centre), Don Armand (utility forward), Tyrone Holmes (flank), Scarra Ntubeni (hooker) and Damian de Allende (utility back). These players, as well as other rookies, would all play a key role in the campaign. As the scoreline suggests, this was a close encounter and the Sharks clinched victory with a drop goal from Riaan Viljoen inside the final 10 minutes of the match. This proved to be an omen of things to come as WP won the cup in similar fashion through a Demetri Catrakilis snap-shot in the final.
Beating Griquas in Kimberley: After their opening round loss, Coetzee and his men moved on to Kimberley where they beat Griquas 25-20 the following weekend. A late Steven Kitshoff try sealed the win for Province and this proved a crucial result as several of the tournament's more fancied sides came unstuck against Pote Human's charges in Kimberley as the season progressed. Griquas claimed wins over the Sharks, Blue Bulls and Golden Lions in their own backyard but could not add WP's prized scalp to that list. The league points gained from that win, ultimately played a big part in the Cape Town outfit securing their place in the play-offs and Griquas just missing out.
Demolishing the Blue Bulls in Cape Town: After that win over Griquas, WP suffered another defeat to the Golden Lions in Johannesburg. This meant they only had one victory to show after three fixtures and their next clash, against their traditional rivals from Pretoria, suddenly became vitally important as another defeat could see them getting involved in a relegation scrap. They claimed a comprehensive 42-6 victory, however, scoring five tries in the process. This year's Currie Cup was close in the points standings, from start to finish, and that win elevated Province to second on the table while defeat meant the Bulls were involved in the relegation battle as it saw them drop to fifth from six teams in the competition.
Losing with 12 men to the Sharks in Durban: The win over the Bulls galvanised the men from the Cape and they registered a vital 29-22 away win over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein the following week. WP seemed to be building momentum but little were they to know that all their previous good work would be undone against John Plumtree's side in Durban on September 15. Not only did they suffer a humiliating 43-27 defeat but their discipline also let them down on a grand scale. Loose forwards Jebb Sinclair and Tyrone Holmes were both red carded for punching and replacement lock Wilhelm van der Sluys received a yellow card for a late tackle in the dying moments of the match.
Thrashing Griquas in Cape Town: WP came in for heavy criticism after that shameful defeat to the Sharks but got back onto the bike, the following weekend, to deliver a polished performance in their 45-21 win over Griquas at Newlands. This result came due to a great allround effort with the hosts running in six tries.
Return of the Springboks: After that win over Griquas, WP suffered successive away defeats to the Golden Lions and Blue Bulls. But just when it seemed that they would miss out on a spot in the play-offs they were handed a lifeline when their seven Springboks - Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Duane Vermeulen, Tiaan Liebenberg, Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker - all returned from Rugby Championship duty for the final league match against the Free State Cheetahs in Cape Town. Their involvement made a huge difference and WP condemned the Bloemfontein-based side to the bottom spot in the standings and the promotion/relegation play-off thanks to a 36-15 win.
Last minute semi-final heroics against the Lions in Johannesburg: WP thought they had won the match after a Joe Pietersen try inside the final 10 minutes gave them a 14-13 lead but with four minutes left to play Elton Jantjies added a penalty which seemed to have given the home side victory. WP however, launched a driving maul from inside the Lions' 22 and captain Deon Fourie scored under a mass of bodies to give his side the win and, crucially, clinched their spot in the final.
Their win over the Sharks in the final: No South African side has gone to Kings Park in Durban and managed to beat John Plumtree's troops in 2012. WP changed all that when they came back after a shaky start to beat their hosts and stun their vociferous supporters into silence. Although the entire team deserve credit for the win, De Jongh deserves a special mention as his brilliant try proved to be the difference between winning and losing. Other players who stood out include Catrakilis, who gave a faultless goal-kicking display, and Etzebeth who dominated the line-outs. Coetzee also deserves credit for his decision to play De Allende at inside centre. The gamble payed off as the big midfielder hardly put a foot wrong in the final.
By David Skippers