Sad farewell to rugby great as Lions beat Sharks

DAVID SHAPSHAK, Durban | Monday 11.00am.

ALTHOUGH playing without their Springboks, the Lions pulled off a stunning 32-9 win over the Natal Sharks in Saturday’s much hyped last Currie Cup final of the millennium at Kings Park stadium.

The Lions scored five tries to none in front of a capacity 52 000 crowd, after leading 10-6 at the break.

But while the champagne flowed for the Johannesburg-based union, it was a sad goodbye for some of the greatest names in South African rugby this decade.

The sensational match was widely expected to go the way of the home team, as a fitting send off to axed Springbok captain Gary Teichmann, “Rolls Royce” fullback Andre Jourbert and coach MacIntosh, who pioneered the crash-ball and running rugby technique that took Natal to four Currie Cup championships.

Teichmann showed his determination as one of the game’s great by finishing his last match on South African soil with numerous stitches in his head.

But on the day, left wing Thinus Delport’s two tries, on either side of the break, and a brilliant individual try form 1995 World Cup hero Chester Williams, on the right wing, that assured the Lions of victory.

And when hooker Leon Boshoff barged over in the dying minutes and AJ Venter crossed in injury time to seal the win, there were unmistakable echoes of to the last time the teams faced each other in a final at Kings Park. On that occasion, in 1993, Springbok No 2 Uli Schmidt’s last gasp try snatched victory for the former Transvaal.

Man-of-the-match Venter’s try will be a timely reminder to Springbok coach Nick Mallett of the calibre of player he has excluded from his World Cup squad for Wales in October, most notably Joubert, Lions midfield general Hennie Le Roux, and, of course, Teichmann.

While four time champions Natal have been the form team of the decade, the Lions, claiming their third Currie Cup trophy of the decade, have been revived by the arrival at Ellis Park of former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains.

The union won the Vodacom Cup (played during the Super 12), the under 23 contest and the SA Cup (essentially the province’s B-side).

Accepting the trophy, Lions captain Hannes Strydom specifically thanked Mains for the resurgence.

But while the game belonged to the Lions, the glory of the decade belonged to the Sharks. “I rate them the team of the nineties,” Strydom said.

In a goodbye speech after the match, Teichmann thanked the fans for their support.
“On behalf of Jouba (Jourbert), Mac and myself, I’d like to thank the crowd, that’s what makes you come on, to play in front of these people. To the Lions, congratulations on a great win.”

While MacIntosh and Joubert have announced their retirement, in an echo of another sacked Springbok skipper Francois Pienaar—who famously held the 1995 World Cup trophy aloft with then President Nelson Mandela before becoming player-coach of English club Saraceans—Teichmann will continue playing for Welsh club Newport.

Teichmann departs as South Africa’s most capped captain (36) and holds the record for most consecutive Tests (39). “This is my end at Natal. I’m going to play two season there and call it a day.”

With his trademark humility Teichmann paid tribute to McIntosh. “I’d like to thank Mac, he set the tone for may career and for Andre’s.”

He also gave his good wishes to the Springboks. “I’d like to give them vote of confidence. They have a whole lot of good players and I think Joost (van der Westhuizen) can do it. I’ll be watching them from Wales and supporting them.”

Although the sides featured none of their top players all on national duty for Sunday’s first warm-up match against an Eastern Province Invitational there were still 14 ex-Springboks and a Wallaby on the field.

Scorers:

Natal

- Penalties: Van Rensburg (3)

Lions

- Tries: Thinus Delport (2), Chester Willaims, Leon Boshoff. Conversions: Kobus Engelbrecht (2); Penalties: Engelbrecht.

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