31 October 2011
The Golden Lions recorded the most emphatic Absa Currie Cup final victory since 1980 when they beat the Sharks, champions in 2010, 42-16 at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
It was a significant triumph, as it was the Golden Lions’ first outright Absa Currie Cup final victory on home soil since 1950 and their first title since 1999, after losing in the finals of 2002 and 2007.
The winning margin of 26 points was higher than the two biggest Absa Currie Cup finals victories of the last decade, both recorded by the Blue Bulls when they beat the Golden Lions in 2006 (31-7) and the Sharks in 2003 (40-19).
Second biggest final victory
The only bigger win in an Absa Currie Cup final than yesterday’s, came in 1980 when the Blue Bulls, then still called Northern Transvaal, beat Western Province by 39-9.
The Golden Lions were the pace-setters all season and built their victory in the final on a superb defensive performance, while they also used their attacking opportunities better than the Sharks, outscoring the visitors by three tries to one.
Golden Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies contributed 24 points and was named man of the match, while Jaco Taute scored a try and added a crucial long-range penalty goal. Michael Killian and Patric Cilliers scored the home team’s two other tries.
Close to a record
Jantjies’ points tally is just two fewer than the record of 26 set by Derick Hougaard in 2002, while the Lions flyhalf’s fellow SA U20 team-mate from last year, Patrick Lambie, contributed 25 points in last year’s final for the Sharks, when they defeated Western Province by 30-10 in Durban.
For the Sharks, Willem Alberts crossed for a try that was converted by Frederic Michalak, who also added three penalty goals.
John Mitchell, coach of the Golden Lions, lauded his team’s calmness under pressure as one of the reasons for their great victory. Late in the first half, Springbok prop CJ van der Linde was sin-binned for dangerous play, but the Lions did not concede a single point while they were playing with only 14 men.
“When we were down to 14 men, we remained calm and the guys didn’t drop in their performance. This team also kept their composure after the Sharks’ try, which I thought was a dubious decision. I’m very proud of how the team handled those incidents very well as we adapted to the situation,” said Mitchell.
“These past few weeks have been phenomenal. The fact that we played in front of a packed Coca-Cola Park showed how well the guys were playing, and the support has been great.
“People assumed I was crazy to take the job as Lions’ coach, but I love a challenge and my dream was to restore the pride that was once here in Johannesburg. I know it’s been a frustrating number of years for all Lions fans, who probably had to turn the telly upside down to see their team on top of the log.
“The results weren’t going the team’s way and that hurts because supporters have an emotional connection to their team. I’m very happy with what has been achieved over the last 16 months.”
Sharks coach John Plumtree praised the Golden Lions for a superb performance in the Absa Currie Cup final.
“We were outplayed in every area of the game and were beaten by the better team. They were backed by a massive crowd, they attacked and defended well, and when they got in front it was always going to be difficult for us,” said Plumtree, who coached the Sharks to Absa Currie Cup titles in 2008 and 2010.
“They had created a lot of momentum since the start of this competition and we weren’t able to stop them today. I think they were probably the more cohesive side.”
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