Cape Town – Veteran Cheetahs scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar admits he never thought he’d get another chance to play in a Currie Cup final.
The Cheetahs claimed a 31-28 victory in Bloemfontein on Saturday to be crowned 2019 Currie Cup champions, and for Pienaar it was second bite at the cherry he never thought he’d get.
The former Springbok only recently returned to South Africa after spending nearly 10 years in Europe.
“The last one was in 2008 and I thought then I’d never get a chance to win the Currie Cup again,” he told Iol.co.za.
“It was a great first-half performance (that got us over the line) and it’s a special one.”
The Cheetahs’ achievement was made all the more impressive by the fact that only 12 months ago they had to come through a promotion-relegation match to secure their status in the Premier Division.
It was a fact not lost on coach Franco Smith.
“To think where we were a year ago … we played promotion relegation, but we worked our way back,” he said.
“This is another important brick in the wall, another stepping stone, of what we’re building here.”
As for Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen, he was left to wonder what might have been had his side not made such a poor start.
The Cheetahs built up a massive 31-7 lead in the first half before the Lions hit back by winning the second half 21-0.
Unfortunately for them, it still wasn’t enough.
“Of course, I’m disappointed, but I’m also proud of the way the guys fought back,” he said. “There’s so much character in them.
“This will be huge for these players’ careers. Some players never get an opportunity of playing in a final, so they’ll learn a lot from this.
“It was great to see the young guys fighting for something they believe in. Every game was a fight for us this year and I’m proud of that spirit.”