DHL Western Province just fell short of defending their Absa Currie Cup title on Saturday, but it should not detract from a successful 2015 season across the board for Western Province Rugby – from youth level up.
Under the coaching of John Dobson – for the first time at this level, as part of a new-look coaching team – a young DHL Western Province team went down 24-32 to a record-breaking Golden Lions side in Johannesburg, a deserved Absa Currie Cup triumph for a side that has been quietly building a squad for the past three years.
The Lions match-22 in Saturday’s final boasted an average age of 25.4, compared with Province’s average of just 22.6 – seven players having started in an Absa Currie Cup Final for the first time and a total of 12 players in the matchday squad wearing Province colours in a final for the first time. Like Dobson said in Saturday’s post-match press conference, some of those greenhorns will be better for the canada goose outlet toronto factory – despite the disappointment of the defeat.
For Dobson and attack coach Dawie Snyman Cheap Canada Goose Jackets Export Sales it was their second final of 2015, having guided the DHL WP Vodacom Cup team to a first-ever home final in that competition back in May and they – along with fellow coaches Paul Treu (defence) and Vlok Cilliers (kicking) – very nearly produced Currie Cup success in their maiden season at the helm.
Of course, Saturday’s Finals Day at Emirates Airline Park did produce silverware for Province, with Robbie Fleck’s all-conquering Under-21 outfit scoring a rampant 52-17 win over Free State’s U21s to secure DHL WP’s third national Under-21 triumph in six seasons, going with three U19 and two Senior triumphs during that same era (between 2010 and 2015).
Fleck’s U21 team – in his first year at the helm of a provincial team – lost just one match in 2015, scoring almost 100 points combined in their two play-off matches. An even bigger positive, however, is that more than 60% of the match-22 from Saturday will still be eligible to again play in this age-group in 2016, including the likes of (to name just a few) JD Schickerling, Jacques Vermeulen, Leolin Zas, Khanyo Ngcukana and Grant Hermanus, whilst SA U20 stars Rickus Bothma (No.8) and Daniel du Plessis (centre) both missed the business-end of the season due to injury.
But it is not just at U21 and Senior level where Province achieved big results in 2015, with the Under-13 Craven Week, Under-18 Academy and Under-18 Craven Week teams all finishing their youth weeks unbeaten. The 2015 U18 Craven Week team broke all kinds of records this year as they won their final match against the EP by a whopping margin of 95-0 – a record for the highest score in the final match of the Under-18 Coca-Cola Craven Week – whilst our U17 Sevens team also brought home silverware.
Paarl Gym lock Ernst van Rhyn skippered the 2015 DHL WP Craven Week team and was rewarded with the SA Schools captaincy too, joining 16 of his Province teammates in either the SA Schools or SA Schools A squads for an international series featuring England, France, Italy and Wales. More importantly, of those 17 SA Schools or A players all but one (excluding those players still at school) have committed to the WP Rugby Institute in 2016.
Super Rugby remains the big prize for WP Rugby – and the DHL Stormers – but it is a title that has eluded an SA team since after 2010 (when the competition expanded to 15 teams).
However, with new coach Eddie Jones set to arrive in the country in early November, along with new signings JC Janse van Rensburg (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock) and Cornal Hendricks (wing), there will be no shortage of effort come the new-look Super 18 competition in 2016.
AT A GLANCE – SOME 2015 HIGHLIGHTS FOR WP RUGBY:
– DHL WP Vodacom Cup team – top of the South log, losing finalists.
– DHL Stormers – SA Conference winners (third time in five seasons) and losing quarterfinalists.
– DHL WP Absa Currie Cup team – finished third on the log but made a fourth final appearance in a row (and fifth in six seasons) after a memorable away semifinal victory over the Blue Bulls. (Province have won the Currie Cup on 33 occasions, more than any other union.)
– DHL WP Under-19 team – finished third on the Absa Provincial U19 log and lost in the semifinals.
– DHL WP Under-21 team – finished first on the Absa Provincial U21 log and won their final in convincing fashion.
– DHL WP success at Under-13 Craven Week, Under-18 Academy and Under-18 Craven Week level. The U16 Grant Khomo team lost just one match in 2015.
– DHL WP Girls teams dominated their Under-16 and Under-18 youth weeks – going unbeaten in both.
– DHL WP Under-17 Boys Sevens team secured back-to-back SARU Under-17 Interprovincial Sevens titles at the 2015 tournament which was held at Paarl Gym. Two WP U18 players, Johan Visser and Damian Willemse, were also part of the Youth Commonwealth Games winning SA Under-18 Sevens squad.
– WP’s Ernst van Rhyn was chosen as the 2015 SA Schools captain – in all, 17 WP schools players made it into the SA Schools or SA Schools A U18 squads this year.
– DHL Stormers veteran Schalk Burger – who played his 100th Super Rugby match this season – won the 2015 World Comeback of the Year Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards, winning back his Springbok place after contracting bacterial meningitis and flirting with death.
– 2015 DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen won the 2014 SA Rugby Player, Players’ Player and Super Rugby Player of the Year Awards in February of this year – the biggest rugby awards on offer in SA.
– Seven WP Rugby players – Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers (captain) and Damian de Allende – were selected in the 2015 Springbok RWC squad.
– Nine DHL WP junior players – Frans van Wyk (prop), Rikus Bothma (flank), Jacques Vermeulen (flank), Daniel du Plessis (centre), EW Viljoen (centre), Grant Hermanus (wing/fullback), Khanyo Ngcukana (wing/fullback), Brandon Thomson (flyhalf) and Leolin Zas (wing) – represented the Junior Springboks at the 2015 World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Italy in June.
– DHL WP/Stormers wing Seabelo Senatla finished the 2014/15 season as the leading try-scorer on the World Sevens circuit with a staggering 47 tries, which saw him selected in the World Rugby Sevens Dream Team, as well as being nominated for the 2015 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Award. (The winner will be announced at the World Rugby Awards dinner on Sunday, November 1 – following the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final.)
New signings announced for 2016:
– JC Janse van Rensburg (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock), Cornal Hendricks (wing).
Springbok re-signings ahead of 2016:
Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Schalk Burger, Damian de Allende.