It was tense and physical throughout, but also error-ridden.
In the end, and has been seen throughout this campaign, Western Province lacked that final clinical execution in their Currie Cup semi-final loss to the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
The Sharks were also far from their best, but the boot of Curwin Bosch and a try from JJ van der Mescht – the only five-pointer of the game – was enough to give the visitors a 19-9 win.
SCORECARD | Currie Cup semi-final – WP v Sharks
The Durbanites will now travel to Loftus where they will take on the Bulls in next weekend’s tournament final.
If this was Western Province’s final ever match at Newlands, as is expected to be the case with a move to Cape Town Stadium on the cards, then they will have felt that they let themselves and their supporters down.
The intensity and passion were certainly there, but the consistency of quality was not and, by the time referee Marius van der Westhuizen blew the final whistle, Province had only themselves to blame.
The Sharks want to become a side that plays attractive, running rugby, but this was not that type of fixture.
It was everything you would expect from a semi-final with the boot – out of hand and off the tee – key to the result, as was the penalty count.
The Sharks were more composed in the big moments and Bosch finished with 14 points – three penalties, a drop goal and a conversion.
Much of the talk in the build-up to the contest had centred around Bosch, and the Sharks pivot showed early on why that was the case.
He landed three penalties inside the opening 12 minutes, all dead in front but from over 50m, reminding the hosts that he would hurt them on the scoreboard for any ill-discipline.
That gave the Sharks a 9-0 lead and it looked like WP were rattled as basic errors crept into their game.
The scrums – where Ali Vermaak was standing in for Steven Kitshoff for WP – were a mammoth battle but as the first-half progressed it was Vermaak who started edging the Sharks’ Thomas du Toit.
After watching those three penalties from Bosch sail over, WP recovered well and began dominating from a territorial point of view.
Most of the play happened inside the Sharks half as the visitors started leaking penalties, with WP opting to chase a try rather than taking the three points.
In those moments, however, the hosts let themselves down with knock-ons from attacking line-outs and mauls when then they needed to be clinical.
It meant that even when the Sharks were giving away penalties, they were not conceding points and they held onto their lead as a result.
WP captain Siya Kolisi left the field for a concussion test but did return, while the Sharks were finally hurt for their growing penalty count when Ox Nche received a yellow card.
Eventually, WP opted to take the points and Tim Swiel knocked one over from straight in front to make it 9-3.
Another scrum penalty for WP allowed Swiel to knock over a second just before the half-time whistle, and despite playing the bulk of the game in their own half, it was the Sharks who went into the break with a 9-6 lead.
A very light drizzle was falling for most of the match as the wind swirled, and after the second half kicked off it became even clearer that this was going to be tight.
Swiel made it 9-9 shortly after the restart as the arm wrestle intensified.
The Sharks then enjoyed a rare trip into the WP 22 and attempted to charge over for the game’s first try, but when that momentum was stopped, Bosch dropped into the pocket and nudged over a drop goal to make it 12-9.
Still, it was WP who looked more likely to break the deadlock in terms of tries as they sparked a couple of threatening attacks, but as was the case in the first half, it was the execution when it mattered most that let them down.
As the penalties started going the way of the Sharks more and more, one sensed that the momentum in the contest was changing heading into the final 20 minutes.
When Ernst van Rhyn was yellow-carded for WP, the resulting maul was nearly catastrophic for them when Thembelani Bholi went crashing over.
The try was awarded, and it looked like the Sharks had landed the killer blow, but upon review it was decided that Van der Mescht had illegally impeded Angelo Davids and the try was scrapped.
That gave Province a fighting chance, but they were still a man down when Bosch set up another attacking lineout in the corner with 9 minutes left on the clock.
This time, the Sharks made no mistake and after a few heroic tackles on their own try line, the WP defence caved as Van der Mescht barged over from close range.
Bosch knocked over the extras, the Sharks went into a 19-9 lead and, with just 6 minutes left on the clock, the match was effectively over.
WP 9 (6)
Penalties: Tim Swiel (3)
Sharks 19 (9)
Try: JJ van der Mescht
Conversion: Curwin Bosch
Penalties: Bosch (3)
Drop goal: Bosch