There will be contrasting feelings in both camps after digesting in what is one of the greatest Super 14 Finals ever after Progress 28-24 win. Progress a feeling of elation, satisfaction and riding on the wave of an amazing victory. While Swallows will be dejected and must accept the fact that they have let themselves and their supporters down. One key element stood between winning and losing, THE BENCH.
Progress and coach Eric Toring have mastered the art of making key changes to player personal. Not making changes for the sake of giving everyone a run, but calculated substitutions which is a vital cog in their dominance over teams. They do the hard yards and graft in the first half, then unleash their explosive bench players in the second half. No team can match and keep up with the intensity for the entire 80min. The same scenario occurred in the semi-final against African Bombers. Progress have class and pedigree but most importantly have the BMT (Big Match Temperament). Most teams will never come back after trailing at half-time, but Progress have done it twice in consecutive weeks in do-or-die matches.
Progress Sachin Toring is key in that game plan. He proved it last week in the semis and again yesterday he came on and changed the entire game. He scored a vital try when Progress was trailing 24-18. Another key factor was the boot of replacement flyhalf Jeandre Christians who slotted three penalties and a conversion for a 11-point haul and all that coming from the bench. In total Progress bench accumulated 16 points from the match score of 28. That’s not all, man of the match Riaan Arends was a late switch from wing to 12 after an injury to one of the Progress players during warm-up. That was an inspired switch as he scored two brilliant tries in the first half.
On the other hand, Swallows can kick themselves for the substitutions they made. And the tactical error in leaving out experience Siyasanga Patti in such a crucial game when you needed cool and calm heads when faced with pressure moment. Bee Zweni was crisp in his distribution and game management, why he was substituted is anyone’s guess. Bangi Kobese coming in and later playing at 10 was out of depth. Swallows just didn’t have the bench at all. Their inability to kill off matches when leading came back to haunt them. It wasno difference as in previous matches when they tend to let teams back in the second half,but only this time it was suicidal, and they paid a hefty prize.
The impact of your bench can never be underestimated!