Preview: Cat-fight in Mbombela
Preview: Cat-fight in MbombelaSHARE
Will the Pumas be crowned as the eighth Vodacom Cup champions in Nelspruit, or will the Golden Lions set themselves apart as the most successful team in the 16-year history of this competition?
These questions will be answered at the Mbombela Stadium on Friday, when the Pumas host the Golden Lions in the Final.
For the team from Mpumalanga, this is new ground – they have never played in a Vodacom Cup Final before.
Prior to this season, their best performance was reaching the semifinals in 2007 and 2012. On both occasions they lost, but last weekend, the Pumas ensured they will host the Final by beating the EP Kings at home.
Jimmy Stonehouse's team has been very consistent all season.
They lost only once in the pool phase and finished as the top team in the North Section. Their victories included good wins in Pretoria over the Blue Bulls and in Kimberley over Griquas.
Ironically, their only defeat came at the hands of the Golden Lions in Round Six.
By that stage of the competition, Johan Ackermann's team was with their backs against the wall and any defeat would have spelled the end of their campaign in 2012.
The Golden Lions started the season very badly and lost three of their first four Vodacom Cup encounters – at a time when the Lions fielded a second string team, while the frontline players were preparing for the now cancelled tour of North America.
However, with the trip to America called off, Ackermann returned the bulk of his top players to Vodacom Cup action and they turned things around – going on a good winning sequence, recording five consecutive wins en route to the Final.
The Pumas have selected an unchanged team for the second consecutive week.
Ackermann has opted for consistency and made just one change to the team which beat Western Province in last weekend's Vodacom Cup semifinal.
Jaco Kriel is back at the side of the scrum after recuperating from a knee injury. He will partner Warwick Tecklenburg at flank, with Willie Britz moving to the bench.
Only seven teams have won the Vodacom Cup – Griquas and the Golden Lions (four times each), the Blue Bulls (three), Western Province, the Free State XV, Falcons and Pampas XV (once each).
Road to the Final:
Round One (9 March)
Pumas beat Falcons 62-0 (Nelspruit)
Golden Lions beat Leopards XV 45-15 (Johannesburg)
Round Two (15/16 March)
Pumas beat Blue Bulls 44-42 (Pretoria)
Golden Lions lost to Falcons 22-27 (Kempton Park)
Round Three (23 March)
Pumas beat Griffons 64-7 (Nelspruit)
Golden Lions lost to Blue Bulls 26-54 (Johannesburg)
Round Four (5 April)
Pumas beat Griquas 47-31 (Kimberley)
Golden Lions lost to Griffons 19-30 (Welkom)
Round Five (12/13 April)
Pumas beat Limpopo Blue Bulls 154-0 (Nelspruit)
Golden Lions beat Griquas 24-11 (Johannesburg)
Round Six (19 April)
Golden Lions beat Pumas 23-14 (Nelspruit)
Round Seven (26/27 April)
Pumas beat Leopards XV 29-28 (Potchefstroom)
Golden Lions beat Limpopo Blue Bulls 161-3 (Alberton)
Quarterfinals (3 May)
Pumas beat Pampas XV 44-37 (Nelspruit)
Golden Lions beat Sharks XV 42-25 (Durban)
Semifinals (10/11 May)
Pumas beat EP Kings 39-13 (Nelspruit)
Golden Lions beat Western Province 44-25 (Johannesburg)
Vodacom Cup Final results:
1998: Griquas beat Golden Lions 57-0
1999: Golden Lions beat Griquas 73-7
2000: Free State XV beat Griquas 44-24
2001: Blue Bulls beat Boland Cavaliers 42-24
2002: Golden Lions beat Blue Bulls 54-38
2003: Golden Lions beat Blue Bulls 26-17
2004: Golden Lions beat Blue Bulls 35-16
2005: Griquas beat Leopards 27-25
2006: Falcons beat Sharks XV 25-17
2007: Griquas beat Blue Bulls 33-29
2008: Blue Bulls beat Free State XV 25-21
2009: Griquas beat Blue Bulls 28-19
2010: Blue Bulls beat Free State XV 31-29
2011: Pampas XV beat Blue Bulls 14-9
2012: Western Province beat Griquas 20-18
Pumas: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Bell, 13 Wilmaure Louw, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Rosco Specman, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jaco Bouwer, 6 Corné Steenkamp (captain), 5 Eduan van der Walt, 4 Uzair Cassiem, 3 Ivann Espag, 2 Frankie Herne, 1 Vincent Koch.
Replacements: 16 Jacques Momberg, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 DeJay Terblanche, 19 Marius Coetzer, 20 RW Kember, 21 Jerome Pretorius, 22 Dewald Pretorius.
Golden Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Van Zyl Botha, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ross Cronjé, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Dylan Des Fountain.
Date: Friday, May 19
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge and Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee