Newlands now the home of SA’s ‘nearly’ teams

The Newlands-based teams, Western Province and the Stormers, have become the ‘nearly teams’ of South African rugby.


The Western Province Currie Cup team signed off their 2008 season with fifth place on the standings, just one log position shy of a highly sought-after play-off place.

Last year, WP also finished in fifth position so it seems the ‘nearly’ tag followed them into the 2008 season.

Earlier this year the Stormers also nearly made the play-offs but they too finished their 2008 season with a fifth-placed log position.

The Stormers and WP count amongst the best supported teams in the country, both in terms of spectator attendance and media exposure.

But the patience of fans in the Mother City has been wearing thin as the two flagship teams have failed to win silverware for the past seven years.

Despite a heavy WP presence in the Springboks teams in recent seasons, the Newlands bigwigs have been unable to halt the pattern of under-achieving on the field of play.

Since 2001 WP have not even made it to a final. As for the Stormers, they last reached a play-off in the 2003 season.

In post-match interviews on Saturday, Allister Coetzee and Jean de Villiers, WP’s coach and captain respectively, said the present situation was “not acceptable” and blamed a lack of depth in the Currie Cup squad for the team’s failure to reach the 2008 play-offs.

Attendances have dropped alarmingly during the past Currie Cup season although the Newlands attendance on Saturday exceeded all expectations when more than 36 000 fans turned up for the WP-Lions clash.

WP last won the Currie Cup in 2001 when they defeated the Sharks 29-24 in the final at Newlands.

WP have a brilliant Currie Cup record, having won the championship 32 times since the tournament started out in 1889. The Blue Bulls, with 22 championship wins, are next on the all-time winners table.

The Newlands hierarchy brought former Free State coach Rassie Erasmus to Cape Town at the end of last year in an effort to beef up their playing fortunes but they will now have to wait until next year before there is the possibility of tangible proof that the move was a wise one.

No one would have predicted at the end of last year that the Springbok squad would draw so heavily on WP player resources and WP head coach Erasmus will no doubt be better prepared next year if the ‘Streeptruie’ are called up in large numbers for international duty.

The advocates of transformation cannot also be too happy with WP’s commitment to the cause. On a number of occasions WP have fielded no more than four black locally-born players.

Cape Town’s local black rugby players cannot also feel too optimistic of graduating through to the province’s Currie Cup team.

The black players Conrad Jantjes, Wylie Human, Ricky Januarie and the Zimbabwean-born Brian Mujati who were included in the WP run-on team on Saturday were recruited from other provinces, and all were born outside Cape Town.

Sapa –

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