Despite criticism, Currie Cup shows it still has the legs
There's one thing nobody could call the 2019 edition of the Currie Cup - and that’s boring.
And it will end with a bang with Saturday’s final between the Golden Lions and the Cheetahs.
South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition has copped a lot of criticism in recent years, with the shortened, single-round format having proved quite unpopular with coaches in particular.
Poor stadium attendance hasn’t helped things either.
With so many stars plying their trade abroad post-Super Rugby, the competition doesn’t always offer fans the chance to see all their favourites. In fact, the only time you’d see a “big name” player running out for a Currie Cup fixture is when he’d have to gain match fitness, or prove it. Thank the overseas lure for that.
But despite a lack of big names, the rugby has been tremendously entertaining from round one, and it was a close-fought battle on the log, with the semi-finalists being decided by the last two matches.
Griquas have been in stunning form in 2019 and can certainly say they deserved a spot in the final. Everybody else sure anticipated it. How many people can honestly say they predicted a finale not featuring the Supersport Challenge champions?
Western Province, 2017 champions and runners-up last year, had a disappointing season and couldn’t crack the semis.
Their performances were patchy at best, and the player group certainly have quite a few things to sort out before the 2020 Super Rugby season starts.
Things could have gone many different ways, but the final - which will see the Free State Cheetahs hosting the Golden Lions in Bloemfontein - is likely to be a feast of good rugby.
The Lions booked their place in the top two after holding on in a hard-fought encounter against Griquas in Johannesburg, while a late charge by the log-leading Cheetahs saw them claw their way back into the contest and turn an 11-20 half-time deficit against the Sharks into a resounding 51-30 victory.
Any match featuring the Lions and the Cheetahs can be expected to be a good one.
Both teams love to give the ball plenty of air. They are unlikely to suffer from stage fright or go into their shells just because it’s a final.