Western Province and the Golden Lions are clearly the two best teams in the Currie Cup this year, having finished first and second on the log respectively.
So, who are the guys that make them tick? Which players do the hard yards?
Building up to Saturday’s final at Newlands, we take a look at the key men on both sides.
2 Flair Kings: The guys who make things happen
Nizaam Carr (No 8)
While WP are playing a more attacking style of play these days on the whole – in which strike-runners such as the back-three of Seabelo Senatla, Kobus van Wyk and Cheslin Kolbe fulfil a crucial role – it still requires someone to pull off those special touches, and that is where Carr comes into the picture.
He’s displayed his skill and flair since he was a schoolboy at Bishops five years ago, but he has since continued on that path at senior level. Carr’s reading of the game is what makes him stand out, and that allows him to be in the right place at the right time.
That is when the 23-year-old is most effective. He has the vision to deliver a perfect pass or offload in the tackle to put a teammate into space, while he has a good turn of speed to outstrip the defence.
His running lines are outstanding and his most visible asset in his make-up is that he knows when and where to run off the shoulder of a teammate breaking the line, while his passing repertoire is superb – long, short, looping or spinning.
You get all of that with Carr, and we haven’t even mentioned his astonishing defensive capabilities.
Cheslin Kolbe (fullback)
Now you see him, now you don’t. That has been the lot of many rugby players when they come up against the Brackenfell Express – Kolbe is so quick and agile that he is able to fly past a tackler, duck under and through defenders and finish teams off.
But a greatly underrated part of Kolbe’s game is his playmaking skills. The fact that he attracts so many defenders immediately creates openings for his teammates, while he is also able to quickly scan the field and look for where the space is and can put the ball there – either by running to that point or putting in a little chip or grubber for the likes of Kobus van Wyk and Seabelo Senatla to run on to.
Kolbe is the magic-man of this Province side, having the ability to do the unthinkable. He showed it when he produced an amazing no-look pass, over his right shoulder and while on the ground, to his captain Juan de Jongh to go over in the first Currie Cup encounter against the Bulls at Newlands in August.
Warren Whiteley (No 8 and captain)
He missed the initial part of the Currie Cup due to his involvement with the Springboks in the Rugby Championship, but skipper Whiteley makes the Lions tick.
He is at the heart of their all-out attacking game – always ready to take a pass, often up in support of the ball-carrier and playing that linking role that all good No 8s do.
Whiteley likes to be close to the action at all times, so he is able to tough it out with his fellow forwards but also show off his tricks when running around in the backline.
He might not haul out long, spinning passes, but he is hugely effective in getting those little pops away to a better-placed teammate and also reading the game smartly to be in the right position.
And while jumping in the lineouts wouldn’t normally be described as being part of the concept of flair, the way Whiteley is able to deliver those much-wanted balls at the back of the lineouts smoothly plays a massive role in the Lions’ attacking game.
Howard Mnisi (inside centre)
Ever wondered who South Africa’s answer to Sonny Bill Williams could be? How about Howard Mnisi!
A former Varsity Cup star for NMMU in Port Elizabeth, Mnisi is the offload king of domestic rugby. He is able to get away the most audacious of passes in the tackle, and while he battled initially to work his way into the Lions starting line-up this year, his performances in the last few weeks have cemented his spot in the No 12 jersey in the eyes of his coach Johan Ackermann.
Mnisi has added yet another fresh dimension to the Lions’ attacking approach, with his quick feet helping him to hit those half-gaps. Just when a defender thinks he’s got his man, the 24-year-old frees his arms in the tackle and puts a teammate into space.
The Lions boast some top-quality loose forwards in Warren Whiteley, Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel and Willie Britz, and they will look to range up on Mnisi’s shoulder to receive their little offload gift.