More than 40 000 fans held their breath and then erupted into joyous celebration as Marnitz Boshoff missed a last-gasp penalty that handed Western Province victory in the 2014 Currie Cup final.
The Lions had fought back from 13-0 down at the break to level the scores and with the clock edging over 80 minutes, Boshoff lined up a penalty from the far touchline that might have tied the scores at 19-all.
But it was not to be for the normally reliable kicker as his attempt hooked away to the left of the uprights.
A crucial early error by Lions scrum half Ross Cronje put Western Province on the front foot from the start.
Trying to clear the ball after a sloppy line-out with just a minute on the clock, Cronje had his attempted hoist over the top charged down by Carizza and immediately put the Lions under pressure.
Tight games turn on small margins and Province drew confidence from being able to play up in the Lions’ half and start setting in motion the ball-recycling sequences that suited their pattern.
The Lions appeared jittery and the pressure of having to defend against wave after wave of blue-and-white hooped jerseys piling into them took its toll.
Demetri Catrakilis kicked two penalties to reward his forwards for their strong play.
The Lions settled down and managed to get parity, but the usually reliable Marnitz Boshoff was off-key and pulled away the first two penalties that came his way.
The Lions eschewed a chance to get some points when Derick Minnie quickly tapped a penalty to himself, but was held up just short of the line, after Skosan had forced Catrakilis to carry the ball over, and Province seemed to gain confidence from having survived the crisis.
Province effectively employed the All Blacks’ tactic of moving the ball “one-away” from the forwards to set up their drives and paid off by way of the opening try of the game.
Fourteen successive phases soaked up the Lions’ defenders and with an overlap developing, Mnisi shot up out of defence to try for a smother tackle but Catrakilis’ quick pass put Taute in possession and the big centre stepped inside Mapoe to score.
Catrakilis’ conversion put the home-side in front, 130, and that was the lead at the break after Combrinck missed a long-range penalty after the hooter.
However whatever it was that coach Johan Ackermann told his charges in the dressing room seemed to work and within 17 minutes the Lions were back on equal terms.
Boshoff started the fightback with his first penalty and then fullback Jaco van der Walt sparked a brilliant counter from deep before being on the end of Cronje’s blindside snipe to dive over in the corner.
Boshoff kicked the touchline conversion and moments later a penalty to make it 13-13 as the Lions started to find their passing and supporting accuracy to outflank the big Province loosies.
Province, however, seemed to realise the danger of allowing the Lions the freedom to play and a strong tackle by Elstadt and Rhodes on Boshoff forced the penalty that Catrakilis goaled to snatch back the lead and moments later the Lions again erred in front and paid the price (19-13).
With the clock running down, Combrinck goaled a penalty from just inside Province’s half to make it 19-16.
This caused referee Craig Joubert to warn Western Province for time-wasting as they tried to keep their lead for two minutes more.
Nizaam Carr storms through a group of Golden Lions players during the Currie Cup final at Newlands yesterday
GOING UP Kobus van Wyk (left) and
Marnitz Boshoff in action during
the Currie Cup final at