It is blue ribbon time
It is blue ribbon timeSHARE
Western Province ended an 11-year wait for Currie Cup glory when they beat the Sharks 25-18 in the Final at Kings Park last Saturday.
As usual we have been gracious in handing out our awards – both the formal accolades and also some of the blithe in nature.
We will start with the weighty awards and look at some more light-hearted awards further down!
Player of the Year: There were many candidates who are truly deserving, but we feel Western Province captain Deon Fourie gets it for his leadership, effectiveness, energy and the huge impact he made in an unfamiliar position after being shunted not just from hooker but moved all around among the loose forwards as well.
Forward of the season: This one was a lot easier for us. Lions captain JC Janse van Rensburg was a clear winner with his consistent quality performances, while he also led by example.
Back of the season: Probably our most difficult of the individual decisions. There is a strong case to be made for Sharks fullback Louis Ludik, but our vote eventually went to Free State Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule – a player who was exciting every time he got the ball. He also topped the competition's try-scoring list with eight touchdowns.
Breakout star: A second award for the young Cheetahs star – Raymond Rhule. The Baby Bok flyer was the revelation of the season and ripped opposition defences to shreds with his lethal combination of unadulterated speed and nifty footwork. As we said before, at 19 years of age he topped the try-scoring list.
Coach of the tournament: This was another clear winner. Although a case could be made for Western Province coach Allister Coetzee, our vote went to Golden Lions mentor Johan Ackermann – smiling through disappointment, keeping his team positive amidst court cases, arbitration hearings and other boardroom dramas. And they only lost out on a place in the Final through a last-minute try.
Team of the tournament: Easy really. It goes to Western Province. It took an incredible amount of character from a youthful Province outfit to overcome the odds and win two play-off matches away from home – including overcoming the tournament's form side, the Shark, in the Final.
Giant-killers: Those men from Kimberley, Griquas. Whilst they missed out on a semifinal berth, the supposed 'also-rans' manage to claim four wins – one less than eventual champions Western Province – and their victims include the Lions (twice), Sharks and Blue Bulls.
Most enterprising team: This one goes to those brave men from Johannesburg, the Golden Lions. They dared to take chances, even when the occasion cried out for a more conservative approach. It cost them dearly in the semifinal, but they never relented.
Match of the tournament: There may have been more 'exciting' games, but the Final had it all – courage, adventure, intensity, tension, non-stop action. It literally went down to the last minute
Try of the tournament: We know there were many, many great tries and sublime moments. We think of some of those team tries the Lions scored. However, the try that stands out for us is Juan de Jongh's five-pointer in the Final. It was brilliant and it changed the nature of the contest. The outside centre ran the perfect angle as he latched on to Demetri Catrakilis's pop pass. He handed off Keegan Daniel and beat Marcell Coetzee and Lwazi Mvovo on route to the chalk.
The not since Naas Botha award: Demetri Catrakilis' two drop-goals in the Final. The first one was well struck with the right foot, while he hacked the second with his left boot and the goal attempt just sneaked over. It was of great significance, as it gave Province a 25-18 lead, and forced the Sharks to search for a converted try to level matters.
Innovator of the season: Willie le Roux may have had his moments of madness – a yellow card and some strange behaviour that resulted in penalties. However, when he touched the ball you expected something to happen. He brought life to rugby.
Most Improved Player: There is no doubt that Jaco Kriel has cemented his place in the Lions' starting XV and the 23-year-old may well be contesting for higher honours in the not too distant future.
The jury is still out: One-time Springbok Pieter Dixon's less-than-glorious comeback will forever have a question mark over it. He may have been cleared by a judicial hearing, after being red-carded for 'kicking' an opponent, but most pundits are still wondering if he is really as innocent as he said he was. On a miserably wet day in Durban last month the Sharks ended with 14 players after the 35-year-old's boot made contact with the face of Bulls flank Arno Botha. Referee Mark Lawrence referred the potential foul play incident to TMO Johann Meuwesen, who had many looks at it and recommended a red card for the kick to the face. Dixon later faced a disciplinary hearing and after acknowledging that his boot came into contact with Botha's face, stated that it was accidental. He was cleared of any wrongdoing as on the balance of probability, the kick was deemed to be unintentional.
Villain to hero: This one goes to Canadian import Jebb Sinclair. He was part of one of the darkest days in WP rugby, when they were reduced to 12 men – after Sinclair, Tyrone Holmes and Wilhelm van der Sluys were carded for foul play in an encounter with the Sharks. However, Sinclair then played a crucial role in the Final, helping Province to their first trophy in 11 years.
Best post-try celebration: Without doubt Juan de Jongh's Gangnam style dance after scoring in the Final.
Worst dancers: This one goes to WP prop Steven Kitshoff and backline coach Robbie Fleck, for trying to keep up with De Jongh and some of the WP dancers doing the same Gangnam dance at the WP awards dinner (props are not the most agile people, and it appears neither are retired Springbok centres).
The Sonny Bill Williams boxing award: Western Province. Outgunned at a wet Kings Park, Province went down swinging – literally – and finished the match with 12 men with Jebb Sinclair, Tyrone Holmes and Wilhelm van der Sluys all sent to the bin.
The real chokers: Well, it simply has to be the Sharks – they have now lost in three consecutive finals, including back-to-back Currie Cup finals.
Smoke and mirrors award: South African Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux. When asked if they will make space for the Kings in the Currie Cup competition he replied: 'They already play in the Currie Cup.' Not sure if he noticed the result, but the Kings had just lost the promotion-relegation series to the Cheetahs by a 20-69 margin. (Maybe SARU should give up on trying to convince the world that the First Division teams are playing for the Currie Cup. After all, they are awarded something very different than Sir Donal Currie's donation when they compete in South Africa's second-tier domestic competition)
Smoke and mirrors part two: Jurie Roux again. When asked about poor crowd attendances, he tried to explain it away by suggesting TV audiences are up. Maybe SARU don't care about empty stadiums.
Best tweet: It goes to somebody called Johan: 'WP is going in as underdogs, kyk hoe byt hierdie hond vandag, WP jou lekker ding'
Gordon Ramsay award: WP coach Allister Coetzee is known for his sharp-witted responses to those spaced-out questions that some members of the media tend to come up with. His best comeback came when a journalist asked if he was considering moving captain Deon Fourie back to hooker just before the play-offs: 'We are not baking fruitcakes here.'
* Did we miss anything? What is your favourite moment? List your awards!