Province have shed their 'chokers' tag
Province have shed their 'chokers' tagSHARE
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee described as "unbelievable" the leadership that inspired his team to fight to the bitter end in their Currie Cup semifinal win over the Golden Lions.
However, what is more important is that he believes they have found the recipe to push on in play-off matches and not succumb to the pressure – as has so often been the case in recent years.
WP and Cape Town's other professional outfit, the Stormers, have not tasted success in a major tournament since their back-to-back Currie Cup victories in 2000 and 2011.
And despite winning the South African Super Rugby conference for the past two years – which Coetzee described as 'the real Currie Cup', because all the Springboks are featured in it – not having kicked on and won a tournament outright has left the Western Cape outfit with an unwanted moniker.
In the last decade Province have lost five times in Currie Cup semifinals and only once reached the Final – where they lost to the Sharks in 2010.
In Super Rugby the Stormers have not been any better. They lost to the Bulls in the 2010 Final, but failed to push on beyond the semifinals in 2011 and 2012 – despite finishing as South Africa's leading franchise in those two years.
However, having reached the Currie Cup Final – where they will meet the Sharks on Saturday – Coetzee is adamant his team is well equipped to overcome the pressure associated with the showcase event on the domestic scene.
They are well aware of the tradition of the Currie Cup and the pride associated with winning it, which means they are determined to ensure Sir Donald Currie's donation to South African rugby will be on display in Cape Town soon.
"The whole week the talk was about the build-up, which should not be hyped up as a big thing, a semifinal," he said of their preparation ahead of the win over the Lions.
Coetzee said they will follow a similar pattern in the build-up to this week's Final.
"It is about staying in the moment and sticking to the processes and that was the most important thing for us.
"People will throw out 'chokers' and all these funny, nice names. They don't have a clue what a choker is.
"If you give them [the critics] a ball, they wouldn't have a clue how to keep the bloody thing."
The Province mentor said the connection in the team is incredible.
"It is believing and [staying] connected to the plan and connected to each other and staying in the moment.
"There is a big believe – [on Friday] the guys had a chat about it again and that came through."
Coetzee was also full of praise for the leadership of captain Deon Fourie – a hooker who has been filling in at loose forward most of the season as a result of the numerous injuries in the team.
"It showed great character and a will to win," he said of the team's last-minute score in Johannesburg.
"You normally see a team do a driving maul in the first couple of minutes of the match, but to do it in the 79th minute of the match shows what this team really stands for.
"I think they are well lead by Deon Fourie," Coetzee said, using words such as "unbelievable" and "inspirational" to describe the man he said leads by example.
"No wonder Deon [Fourie] was so emotional after the game," the coach said, adding: "No player left anything out there, but Deon Fourie has been unbelievable throughout this season."
Coetzee described the triumph over the Lions as "one of the best" in his career.
"It is a first for me, in Johannesburg," he added.