DURBAN – Nobody will be feeling the heat at Newlands on Saturday more than the respective coaches and captains. They are the chief protagonists in the drama and come the final whistle on the 2018 Currie Cup, two of them will sipping champers out of the 126-year-old Cup and for the other two it will be desperate disappointment. Mike Greenaway looks at the respective men in charge at Western Province and the Sharks.
Robert du Preez:
This final will bring down the curtain on the 55-year-old’s third year in charge of the Sharks, and he would dearly love to mark the occasion with his first silverware, particularly after the shock loss to WP in last year’s final. The Sharks did not have the Super Rugby campaign they envisaged earlier this year and the pressure will be on the coach to deliver in the Currie Cup.
As a scrumhalf for Western Transvaal, Northern Transvaal, Natal and the Springboks, Du Preez was ultra-competitive and nothing has changed now that he has graduated into coaching. Born and schooled in Potchefstroom, Du Preez returned to his roots to coach the Leopards in his first job in first class rugby, as well as well as university side NWU Pukke, having earlier enjoyed much success with Durban club College Rovers. Du Preez played seven Test matches for the Springboks in 1992 and 1993.
The 28-year-old was on the field the last time the Sharks won the Currie Cup, in 2013 at Newlands, except he was in a blue and white jersey and had a game to forget, having had a pass intercepted by opposite number Charl Macleod, who proceeded to score a game-changing try. This is only the third occasion Schreuder will be captaining the Sharks after taking over the reins from Chiliboy Ralepelle for the league game against Griquas. Akker van der Merwe had played so well when given a rotational chance that it was difficult to drop him, and so Chili has remained on the bench and Schreuder has continued captaining.
He came to the Sharks in 2017 via the Southern Kings and before that the Kubota Spears in Japan, but he is very much a product of the Cape. How dearly would he love to be crowned King Louis on his former home ground...
A scholar, a gentleman and a rugby man through and through. That would aptly describe the affable Dobson, who is a published author and former editor of a rugby magazine. When he was appointed Western Province coach in 2015, it was fitting for a man who can rightly call Newlands his second home — he had a scholars’ season ticket at Newlands from a very young age and has coached the WP Under-20 and Vodacom Cup teams. “Dobbers” once said that he had been lucky enough to come from an enlightened family so that in the dark days of this country he got to watch SARU rugby. In 1989, he watched a Currie Cup Final and an SA Cup Final on the same weekend.
For this quintessentially Western Province man, coaching the streeptruie is clearly an honour, a privilege and a responsibility, and his players just as clearly recognise that and play for him.
Chris van Zyl:
Nearly all professional rugby players begin wondering about life after rugby towards the end of their playing days but for Van Zyl it was the other way around. After school at Rondebosch Boys’ High, he went to Stellenbosch to study accountancy and duly graduated as a CA. To be fair, when at school he did not have the pressure of a Director of Rugby trying to sign him — he played for his school’s third team. He says he was physically a late developer, which explains why he came into his own as a rugby player at varsity, where he made a name for himself in the Varsity Cup.
After completing his studies, he had to do his articles in Johannesburg, which led to him making his first class rugby debut for the Lions. In 2015 he returned home and has subsequently played 55 times for Province and on 28 occasions for the Stormers.