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Griquas’ captain Sango Xamlashe says players view sold out Currie Cup final as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

Sango Xamlashe of the Griquas says the team can’t wait to to play in front of a full stadium. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Sango Xamlashe of the Griquas says the team can’t wait to to play in front of a full stadium. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jun 25, 2022

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Durban - Within hours of the government’s easing of restrictions on public gatherings, Griqua Park in Kimberley had sold out for today’s Currie Cup final against the Pumas, an illustration of how much this unique final means to the country cousins of South African rugby.

The capacity of the ground is 14 000 but anyone who has been to Griqua Park (for so long known as Hoffe Park) will tell you that the stands are just about on top of the pitch. There are no spacious grandstands to soften the crowd noise and the players will be guaranteed a deafening experience.

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Sango Xamlashe, who will lead the Griquas in the absence of concussed captain Niel Otto, says his team can’t wait to feed off the energy of a crowd that will be almost exclusively shouting for them, especially given that at the start of the week they were expecting just 7000 fans, but all those Covid restrictions have been gleefully kicked into touch.

It means the Pumas and Griquas players will be playing in front of a capacity crowd for the first time in their careers.

“It’s a great opportunity. I can’t ever recall playing in front of a sell-out crowd and I’m sure a lot of the other guys here can relate,” said Xamlashe.

“To have a full capacity at home is a dream for any player. If someone had to say that this was how things were going to turn out at the beginning of the season, they would have been called bonkers.

“But we are here now. The moment and the occasion are slowly starting to present themselves. The guys are really showing great excitement. They are looking forward to it. A lot of the guys are seeing it as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It’s a huge tribute to our fans as well. I think they deserve it. We are really excited to go out and give a performance that Kimberley can remember.”

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The last time the ground was sold out was when Griquas famously upset a Springbok-laden Northern Transvaal team 11-9 in 1970.

Seven members of that Griquas team will be in the stands today, including the captain that day, Mannetjies Roux, the legendary Springbok centre.

TEAMS: Griquas:

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15 George Whitehead, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 Sango Xamlashe (captain), 12 Rynhardt Jonker, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Zander du Plessis, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Siba Qoma, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Werner Gouws, 5 Derik Pretorius, 4 Cameron Lindsay, 3 Janu Botha, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Kudzwai Dube. Replacements: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Eddie Davids, 18 Andries Schutte, 19 Johan Retief, 20 Michael Amiras, 21 Johan Mulder, 22 Fiela Boshoff, 23 Chris Hollis, 24 Gustav du Rand, 25 Luyolo Dapula, 26 Raegan Oranje.

Pumas:

15 Devon Williams, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Sebastián de Klerk, 12 Eddie Fouche, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Andre Fouche, 7 Willie Engelbrecht (captain), 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Shane Kirkwood, 4 Deon Slabbert, 3 IG Prinsloo, 2 Eduan Swart, 1 Corne Fourie. Replacements: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Simon Raw, 19 Kwanda Dimaza, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Giovan Snyman, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Alwayno Visagie.

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@MikeGreenaway

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