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Rugby | SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Craig Barry © Gallo Images

RC final win makes it third time lucky for Barry

To both the winners and losers the result of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge final – won 28-18 by Western Province against Griquas – meant a lot of things.

But few would have been more relieved to win the game than Province fullback Craig Barry, whose finals record was starting to be something approaching a state of emergency. The former Stellenbosch player had been in two Varsity Cup finals and lost both in the last two years.

The first had been by a point to Pukke and this year’s defeat was by Tukkies, with Barry’s finishing as the top try scorer (nine) in the competition doing little to assuage the pain. Consequently, few would have been more relieved than Barry, who was joint second highest try scorer in this campaign with eight, to help Province win yesterday.

“Obviously I don’t want to talk about other competitions, my main focus was giving my best effort, bringing everything I’ve got to this team because John Dobson gave me this opportunity,” he said.

“To be part of this great team, to stand here today with a gold medal there are no words to describe it ... being a loser two months ago and being a winner today. That’s how rugby is, you win some, you lose some, but I have no words to describe how proud I am of this team and what we achieved here today.”

There was a little extra to be proud of because Province went through the entire Rugby Challenge unbeaten, winning all 11 of their games: “You don’t get that often and we said it before time in the changing room that 10 out of 10 or 11 out of 11 doesn’t count for anything if we don’t win today, and I think the guys were great you could see their hunger to win this trophy they came out firing.

“To top it all off it was in a final, a match you have to win, that adds to the magnificence of this team and the incredible season this team has had.”

As ever with “invincibles”, the bonds tend to be slightly more than those of just teammates. Barry said the fact that the team – made up of peripheral or game time-seeking Super Rugby players, steady journeymen, age group players and club rugby players – has to break up would take its toll.

“That’s the sad part now because each individual has to fight for himself going forward. But like Dobbo said before time, this would be the last time this team is together. I guess all we have is to enjoy this moment.”

The win has gone some way towards affirming the 25-year-old’s comeback to the game.

A gifted schoolboy fullback, Barry was a glittering career waiting to happen when he left Paul Roos in 2010. He made the SA Under-20 side and was involved with the Blitzboks team from an early age. But then injury struck, with a groin injury forcing him to cry off the Baby Boks side of 2011.

Two years later his contract with Western Province was terminated, forcing him to a deep introspection about his life: “I took a knock from that and realised I would have to work hard for what I wanted in life.

“I have never stopped working and one day I will become a Springbok. (Stormers utility back) Dillyn Leyds is a good friend of mine and he’s just made the Bok team, and he was behind me when we were growing up. I’ve also played with Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi, so my day will come.”

As foundations for achieving those dreams go, winning the Rugby Challenge is as good as any.


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