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Awards: Provincial showpiece

The 2014 instalment of the Currie Cup brought us an exciting and unique showcase of provincial rugby which deserves some recognition in rugby365's prestigious awards.

 

There are teams that produced award-winning performances and then there are other than produced hardly anything. 

 

There are individuals that shone and there are those that grew and grew, and those that found a place in our hearts.

 

There are tries that showcased the exciting brand of running rugby South Africans have been desperate for, then there are the bone-jarring hits that every rugby fan loves to see!

 

The Awards:

 

We should begin by acknowledging, formally, the best in the categories from team, to player to back and forward.

 

Team of the Tournament: There are two teams that shone – and poetically, those were the finalists, the Lions and Western Province were by far and large streets ahead of the competition.

 

Who then deserves the prize of best team?

 

If you look at what happened in Super Rugby for these two teams, you get a nice starting point and good background information as to what made these teams impressive in the Currie Cup.

 

Western Province suffered a dismal Super season that saw the Newlands faithful calling for heads to roll – but should be praised for pulling together and performing so well.

 

The Lions impressed under coach Johan Ackermann at the helm leading the Lions into a new era of competitive rugby – and they proved it was not just a once off.

 

Province's season was categorized as impressive throughout but the Lions showed that they are more than just a team, they are a family.

 

In the end, The Lions, with the continued growth, deserve the accolade – especially seeing as they missed out on the trophy – just.

 

Player of the Tournament: A fair few players impressed throughout and were consistent performers for their teams.

 

The names Jaco Kriel, Nizaam Carr, Seabelo Senatla 'that Lions front row', Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh, Michael Rhodes and Grant Hattingh all bring up images of some stellar performances.

 

However, it has to be the incredible attacking talent that is Cheslin Kolbe that gets the award, a try scorer and finisher, but more than that, he is the ultimate x-factor player and was the spark to many of WP's tries.

 

 

Forward of the Tournament: Looking back at that list, there are a number of forwards that shone brightly, but in the end there are only two real contenders – and both have been awarded with Springbok selection – Kriel and Carr.

 

In the end, Carr deserves the award and pips Kriel mostly because of the vital role he played for WP.

 

Kriel misses out because of the competition that the Lions loose forwards offered up. 

 

Back of the Tournament: It would be fairly boring to give Kolbe both awards (although he could definitely be in with a shout) so it would only be fair to award it to De Jongh who linked up supremely well with Kolbe in creating tries out of nothing. 

 

This on top of the burden of captaincy which he handled with aplomb.

 

Coach of the Tournament: This is a fairly straight forward one – as mentioned previously, Ackermann has worked tirelessly to turn the Lions around and deserves the award hands down.

 

Jimmy Stonehouse also got many people excited with his coaching style at the Pumas, unfortunately it was a brief spurt and slowly petered out.

 

There may be a case for Allister Coetzee and his change of game plan that saw WP become an attacking force – but there are plenty of people who would put that down to Gert Smal – perhaps he should win the: Puppet Master Award.

 

Most Improved Back: There may not be much flash about him, but if you watched Courtnall Skosan closely you will see a wing who is starting to tick a lot of boxes, and this coupled with his deadly pace will make an incredible finisher in seasons to come.

 

Most Improved Forward: Stephan Lewies is a player who promised much during the Super Rugby season and was rewarded with a Springbok call-up.

 

This Currie Cup season he has been involved in a lot of the donkey work and as such has maybe not been as prominent or as obvious, but he is steadily growing as a world-class, all-round lock.

 

The Engine Room Award: The Lions frontrow deserve plenty of praise for the successful season, a platform to attack from (and a defensive force that puts other teams on the back foot) cannot be underestimated. It had a lot to do with the frontrow, but the actual award goes to the Lions forwards who scrummed as a pack

 

A subsidiary award under the Engine Room also goes to the Lions loose forwards, who worked incredibly well as a balanced trio – no matter who was on the park.

 

Onto the more lighthearted awards…

 

The Better Luck Next Year Award: The Eastern Province Kings avoided a whitewash by the skin of their teeth with a Final Round victory over the down-beaten Pumas. 

 

This did not help them get off the foot of the table, or out of the relegation zone, however, thanks to some skilful political working, the rugby public will have another chance to see the Kings in action in 2015 – and the Kings will have another chance to perhaps win two games in a season.

 

The Wreck it Ralph Award: This one goes to Jaco Taute, not because of his shift to centre where his bulky frame cause defences a few problems, but for his boozy rampage in a Bloemfontein hotel where the WP man harassed some of the guests and even broke a computer (which are quite rare in the City of Roses).

 

The Stick to Your Guns Award: The Blue Bulls showed us that a bit of belief and some continuity in your game plan can get you some reward – a horrendous start saw them claw their way back into a semifinal spot.

 

On the other hand, it also showcased the Bulls' coach Frans Ludeke is not one to throw away the old coaching manual and will stick to what is known when it comes to Bulls rugby.

 

The Wet Dream Award: The Pumas got every body excited in the first half of the tournament only for the dream to shatter and for the men from Nelspruit to be left with a big, embarrassing mess.

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