DURBAN - There is life in the grand old dame of SA rugby yet when you consider the respect shown to the 126-year-old Currie Cup by the younger players who will do battle in Saturday’s final at Kings Park (4pm).
Sharks prop Thomas du Toit has said the final against Western Province will be the biggest game of his life and on Wednesday another 22-year-old Shark, Jean-Luc du Preez, said that apart from playing for the Springboks, he had “never encountered a game of this stature”.
Du Preez has 10 caps for the Boks and was heavily involved in the Rugby Championship, memorably scoring a try against the All Blacks at Newlands in that epic Test.
“It has been an awesome year for me. I am grateful for every opportunity I get to play for my country, and now to come back to the Sharks and be involved a Currie Cup final is very special,” the flanker said.
“I am fortunate. I played for the SA Under-19s in the 2014 IRB final but it does not compare to this week. I am thankful to my teammates for getting the team this far because I did not play much of a role.”
Du Preez’s twin Daniel has been much more involved in the Sharks’ Currie Cup campaign and while the No 8 came close to a Springbok debut, he has had the frustration of twice being released from the Bok camp to the Currie Cup.
“I think Dan was a bit disappointed not to get a cap,” Jean-Luc said. “But he has done really well coming back from the Boks, and I think he has recently had two of his better games in the Currie Cup.
“Hopefully on the November Springbok tour, we get to pull the green and gold over our heads together,” he said. “But we obviously have to get selected, and first things first is the massive occasion of a Currie Cup final at home against Western Province.”
The WP side obviously includes the twins’ elder brother Robert jr, who will be the flyhalf general for the visitors, as he was when he orchestrated an upset win in Durban two weeks ago, winning the Man of the Match award. It was a game that ended the Sharks’ 10-match winning streak.
There will be four Du Preezs involved in the final (Robert du Preez sr coaches the home side), a fascinating family achievement and a feat that would probably have Mrs du Preez unsure where her allegiances lie.
Her husband once joked that Robert jr winning Man of the Match in a WP defeat to the Sharks was arguably the best family permutation. “There is always quite a bit of banter on the family (Whatsapp) group during a Sharks v WP week,” Jean-Luc grinned.
“It seems Robert is always trying to get one over my father and he has a knack of playing very well against my dad, going back to when he was playing Varsity Cup for Pukke (against the College Rovers side coached by his father), but hopefully it does not happen again this weekend!
“As for my mother, I think she is just proud of us all and wants everybody to do well. I think maybe she has a soft spot for Robert because he is the odd one out and not here in Durban. She was very chuffed with how he played here two weeks ago. I think she will try and support all of us the same amount though.”