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Preview: CC Final - WP v Sharks

Thu, 24 Oct 2013 22:45
Wp-v-sharks-currie-cup-fina Currie-cup-trophy2 Deonfouriecurriecup Frans-steyn-currie-cup Newlands-currie-cup-logo

Who is your money on?

Quote-end

Sir Donald Currie could not have imagined in his wildest dreams what his donation to South Africa, the majestic golden trophy, would evolve into.

While the trophy and its shape have remained unchanged for more than a century, bar the occasional refurbishment, the status and prestige attached to this regal, if not grandiose, Cup have become legendary.

As the prize in one of the most celebrated competitions in the world, it has a mystical attraction.

Not surprising then the build-up to Currie Cup finals are surrounded by so much hype.

And this week was no different, with Cape Town in the grip of Cup Final fever for the first time in more than a decade.

Claims of 'it is ours to lose' and suggestions that Cape Town's fans will 'transform' Western Province into super men were all part of the pre-match build-up.

However, Province coach Allister Coetzee summed it up succinctly when he said: "Being at Newlands is fantastic, but there are no guarantees."

The same two teams contested the Final last year, when Province emerged 25-18 victors to claim their first title in more than a decade.

But more significantly, it is also the same two teams that featured in the last Final at Newlands, in 2001, when  WP edged the Sharks 29-24.

The 2013 edition is shaping up to be another epic battle, a game of Test match intensity.

Coetzee likened the Sharks to the All Blacks, the globe's trend setters, and said the men from Durban will pose a much bigger threat than during the regular season - when Province twice beat them - because of how they have evolved their game.

"Look at international rugby and the All Blacks, who are the benchmark, and you look at what they changed," Coetzee told a media briefing at Newlands this week.

"They [New Zealand] changed their kicking game," the Province mentor said, adding: "They put sides under pressure and if you don't handle that well they get an edge.

"It is similar to the Sharks. They have a massive kicking game and if you don't handle that well you will be in trouble."

Coetzee felt that if his team was able to put pressure on the Sharks' set pieces and starve them of possession that will be the key to WP winning back-to-back Currie Cup titles.

Sharks forwards coach Brad Macleod-Henderson also spoke of the need to get set-piece dominance.

While the Sharks will be "tweaking one or two things", they will continue with what has been working for them throughout this campaign.

"Province have a fantastic pack," Macleod-Henderson said, adding: "We need to make sure that at the set pieces we are strong.

"We played against them two weeks ago and we had one or two problems there [in the set pieces]. We have been ironing out that this week."

WP forwards coach Matt Proudfoot spoke of the contact areas as another key aspect.

"We know set pieces are crucial in a Final," Proudfoot said, adding: "You have to win the confrontation and do so for the full 80 minutes. That is what finals rugby is all about."

Players to watch:

For Western Province: You can start with their back three - Gio Aplon, Gerhard van den Heever and Cheslin Kolbe - three of the most lethal strike runners. However, the brains in the backline is Springbok captain Jean de Villiers. No.8 Duane Vermeulen has not lost any of his physicality, but his evolution into a more rounded player with strong openside credentials make him invaluable to the team's cause. Captain Deon Fourie is another master of the breakdown. Schalk Burger coming off the bench is always worth the wait.

For the Sharks: The return of World Cup-winning Springbok Francois Steyn in midfield will certainly improve their kicking game - both out of hand and at goal. Captain Keegan Daniel may not have the physicality, but in open play he can be devastating. Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Pieter-Steph du Toit provide the muscle, while Bismarck du Plessis is valuable on both defence and in winning turnovers - as long as he keeps his discipline and emotions in check.

Head to head: In finals the flyhalves are always key players - Demetri Catrakilis (Western Province) against Patrick Lambie (Sharks). They both have sound kicking games, although Lambie may be a bit more adventurous on attack. They may not be direct opponents and are being earmarked as future Bok second row partners, but Eben Etzebeth (Western Province) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks) will no doubt be involved in bruising a few opposing bodies.

Last 10 meetings:
2013: Western Province won 17-13, Durban
2013: Western Province won 25-19, Cape Town
2012: Western Province won 25-18, Durban (Final)
2012: Sharks won 43-27, Durban
2012: Sharks won 25-23, Cape Town
2011: Western Province 15-10, Durban
2011: Sharks won 21-19, Cape Town
2010: Sharks won 30-10, Durban (Final)
2010: Western Province won 33-21, Cape Town
2010: Sharks won 27-16, Durban

Road to the Final:

Western Province:
Western Province 33-16 Golden Lions, Cape Town (semifinal)
Sharks 13-17 Western Province, Durban
Western Province 36-23 Golden Lions, Cape Town
Free State Cheetahs 27-29 Western Province, Bloemfontein
Western Province 19-13 Griquas, Cape Town
Blue Bulls 18-29 Western Province, Pretoria
Western Province 25-19 Sharks, Cape Town
Golden Lions 31-31 Western Province, Johannesburg
Griquas 19-20 Western Province, Kimberley
Western Province 15-14 Free State Cheetahs, Cape Town
Western Province 24-24 Blue Bulls, Cape Town

Sharks:
Sharks 33-22 Free State Cheetahs, Durban (semifinal)
Sharks 13-17 Western Province, Durban
Blue Bulls 16-18 Sharks, Pretoria
Golden Lions 25-31 Sharks, Johannesburg
Sharks 50-26 Free State Cheetahs, Durban
Griquas 24-25 Sharks, Kimberley
Western Province 25-19 Sharks, Cape Town
Sharks 34-18 Blue Bulls, Durban
Free State Cheetahs 15-18 Sharks, Bloemfontein
Sharks 33-25 Golden Lions, Durban
Sharks 30-32 Griquas, Durban

Prediction: It is a Final with 20-odd Springboks on display - a few more in the Sharks team than that of Western Province. The game may also be at Newlands, but the Sharks have played in Cape Town often enough not to be unsettled by the vociferous Newlands faithful. The game will indeed be decided in the contact areas - the tackle, breakdown and set pieces. Western Province have looked the more settled and confident team in recent weeks and they should edge it - by less than 10 points.

Teams:

Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Frans Malherbe, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh.

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain) , 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Stephan Lewies, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Fred Zeilinga, 22 Heimar Williams.

Date: Saturday, October 26
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17.30 (15.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy with a strong south-easterly wind. High of 23ºC and a low of 13ºC
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant referees: Christie du Preez, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Deon van Blommestein

By Jan de Koning

Footnote: When the first overseas team to tour South Africa stepped ashore in 1891 they carried with them a particularly precious bit of cargo. Among the bags, boots and balls was a golden cup given to the British Isles squad by Sir Donald Currie, owner of Union-Castle Lines, the shipping company that transported them to the southern tip of Africa. The gold trophy was donated by Currie in 1891 before the arrival of the touring British Isles team. His instructions were clear: Hand this trophy over to the team in South Africa that gives you the best game and after a spirited display, Griqualand West became the first ever holders of the Currie Cup. To this day the trophy remains the holy grail of South African rugby. It was donated to the South African Rugby Board, and it became the prize for the Currie Cup competition.

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