PREVIEW: Gold Cup, Final
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: SA Rugby's three-nation championship for non-university clubs – will reach its climax in Rustenburg on Saturday in a titanic North v South Final between home side Impala and Western Province champions False Bay.
Impala – the 2014 winners and last year's runners-up when the tournament was still known as the Community Cup – qualified for their third straight final when they overcame Falcons champions Brakpan 44-32 in last Sunday's semifinal.
False Bay, playing in their maiden national tournament after claiming their first WP Grand Challenge title in 44 years, beat defending champions Durbanville-Bellville 41-35 in the other semi to book their ticket to Rustenburg.
"The Gold Cup has breathed new life into the club game this year and we have broken new ground on a number of exciting fronts in the process," said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.
"The decision to move the Gold Cup from the pre-season to the end of the year has also produced the desired outcome. The tournament is now perfectly positioned as the logical climax to the club season, while ensuring that players are being rewarded for their loyalty by sticking it out with the clubs for the entire year.
"There are players in Saturday's final who have been second-team regulars all season, and who through injury to first-choice players have suddenly found themselves in the biggest match in South African open club rugby. Tha'’s what club rugby is all about," Roux added.
Saturday's Final promises to be an intriguing battle between two teams who have travelled very different roads to get to the main match.
Impala, having topped Pool B with the most number of logs points of any of the 20 competing clubs, have enjoyed home-ground advantage throughout the knockout rounds and will be playing their fourth straight match in Rustenburg.
False Bay, on the other hand, have travelled more than any team in this year's Gold Cup. On Friday the team will board their ninth flight in six weeks, which included an historic journey to Harare where they played Old Georgians in the first-ever Gold Cup match outside of South Africa.
In contrast to Impala, the Cape side have had to win their quarterfinal (against Pretoria Police at Loftus Versfeld) and semifinal (against Durbell) on the road, and will need to make it a hat-trick of away victories if they are to lift the coveted Gold Cup on Saturday.
If results so far are anything to go by, Saturday's final should be anything but a low-scoring arm-wrestle. Impala have scored a combined 96 points in their two knockout matches with False Bay close on their heels with 81.
Six of the top 10 try-scorers in the Gold Cup are playing in the final, although it might be the tournament's two top point-scorers, flyhalves Cecil Dumond of Impala (86 points) and Andri Claassen of False Bay (73), who might just have the final say on the day.
Rustenburg Impala: 15 Xolani Nkosi, 14 Dumisani Matyeshana, 13 Justin St Jerry, 12 Berto van Wyk, 11 Maverick van der Merwe, 10 Cecil Dumond, 9 Nico Kruger, 8 Leon du Plessis, 7 Justin Wheeler (captain), 6 Tiaan Prinsloo, 5 Tiaan Nel, 4 Robbie Rawlins, 3 Zander de Kock, 2 Bruce Muller, 1 Louis Hollamby.
Replacements: 16 Gavin Williamson, 17 Ivann Espag, 18 Joe Engelbrecht, 19 JP le Grange, 20 Stefan Kruger, 21 Francois van Biljon, 22 McDonald Duma.
False Bay: 15 Adnaan Osman, 14 Danie Roux, 13 Byron Mohr, 12 Riaan O'Neill, 11 Mustaqeem Jappie, 10 Andri Claassen, 9 Mohammed Damon, 8 Ryan Olivier, 7 Justin van Winkel, 6 Aiden Monk, 5 Brandon Wood, 4 Graham Knoop (captain), 3 Ashley Wells, 2 Andre van Vuuren, 1 Wesley Futter.
Replacements: 16 Dasch Barber, 17 Royal Mwale, 18 Willie Coetzee, 19 Curtley Johnson, 20 Dylon Frylinck, 21 Jason Pretorius, 21 Roemark Smith.
Date: Saturday, October 29
Venue: Impala RFC, Rustenburg
Kick-off: 15.30; 13.30 GMT
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant referees: Jaco Pretorius, Paul Mente
TMO: Johan Greeff