Who will dine out on glory at Newlands on Saturday in the Currie Cup final?
Wynona Louw thinks it will be Western Province, but Mike Greenaway says it will be the Sharks. Our two Independent Media rugby writers square off...
Wynona Louw on why Western Province will win
Sure, the semi-final cruncher against the Blue Bulls at Newlands was tough, extremely tough, and it might have cut WP’s favourites tag in half.
But maybe it was needed... maybe they needed to be stress-tested ahead of the ultimate Currie Cup showdown after cruising through the league stages with no team able to offer any kind of resistance.
While rugby has appeared to be nothing more than an afterthought in Durban recently, with the Sharks desperately trying to sign a deal with Sony Music Entertainment with those night terror-producing music videos, WP have been hard at work in an attempt to keep South Africa’s most coveted rugby cup shining in the Mother City.
If there are a few things the Sharks can do well enough to make South Africa forget about that cringe-inducing rendition of Ice Ice Baby, it’s scrum.
And getting over the gain-line. And then offloading. And booting a ball.
And while they can’t seem to string together a few steps to a tune, those backs know how to step between the solid white lines.
But Province are simply on another level, they have been whole season. Wilco Louw has been tormenting his opposite scrummagers this season, and in the final last year, he made a meal of the Sharks’ Thomas du Toit.
The Sharks have since done well in that department, but the pack-down is one that should swing in Province’s favour.
WP’s backline and the kind of havoc they can easily wreak from set-play and on the counter-attack is so obvious that even officials who are blind to the Bulls’ endless offside offences would be able to see it.
You just can’t miss that potency.
Two big tests, however, should be the gain-line battle, as John Dobson highlighted earlier this week, and the aerial contest.
But given the boots and high-ball capabilities WP boast, stopping the Cell C Du Preez’s and preventing those offloads should be the only real concern.
So ja, the Durbanites sure have ruined one of the Backstreet Boys’ hits for EVERYBODY, and seeing that Province will thump them today, maybe it’s time they start working on their next clip dedicated to the Currie Cup trophy – If You Don’t Know (or Own) Me By Now, perhaps?
#OurSharks ARE BACK IN TOWN! We head into the clash at JONSSON KINGS PARK this weekend and are looking to 'rock some bodies' in the next step towards Currie Cup victory.#OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/NO0K8CoTwA
Mike Greenaway on why the Sharks will win
In bygone days of Currie Cup yore, Western Province-Sharks showdowns were about the broadsword of the Sharks going up against the Western Province rapiers.
To a large degree, Saturday’s final could be a throwback to those times when the Sharks’ game plan was based primarily around bullying the show ponies off the ball.
In the Currie Cup league games, Province had the freedom to run riot, and they did so spectacularly. It was only in last week’s semi-final that they hit a speed bump.
The Sharks have been encouraged by the Bulls’ in-your-face strategy, and believe they can take it further because they have a superior pack to the Bulls.
Take the front row, for example, an area where the Sharks largely lost the final last year at Kings Park when Wilco Louw demolished his old Cape schoolboy rival Thomas du Toit.
In the space of a year, the Sharks have turned a weakness into a strength. Du Toit has switched to tighthead and has made impressive strides.
Du Toit’s brief is simple: give it horns for as long as his tree-stump legs can carry his 130kg bulk, and then baton change with another ambitious Springbok, Coenie Oosthuizen.
It means unremitting pressure from the cornerstone of the Sharks’ scrum.
On the other side of the front row, former Bulls man Juan Schoeman has matured into a powerful loosehead ,and in the middle is the Angry Worthog, the irrepressible Akker van der Merwe, who is hungrier than ever.
And what better stage for him to state his case to Rassie Erasmus regarding who should be the back-up hooker to Malcolm Marx?
Which bring us to the loose trio, where each component weighs 115kg. At openside flank is a sometime lock and a contender for Currie Cup Player of the Year in Tyler Paul, plus the hulking Du Preez twins.
They, and older brother Rob, know pressure is mounting on their dad.
Also, educated rumour has it that none of the three have been picked for the Bok touring squad.
That is a mountain of angry bulk, and I have a gut feeling that it is going to be their day.
Teams For Newlands
Western Province: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 SP Marais, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Aphelele Fassi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Tyler Paul, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Juan Schoeman
Bench: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Jacques Vermeulen, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Leolin Zas.
Weekend Argus, Independent on Saturday