DURBAN – The Sharks have gone to school on the Blue Bulls’ exceptional showing at Newlands last week, and believe they have learned how to disarm the formidable Western Province attack.
The Bulls came within a missed conversion attempt of winning that game against the odds and the Sharks are hoping to take leaf out of the Bulls’ book, but go that little bit further.
The Durbanites aim to get in amongst the Province players and prevent them achieving the rhythm that swept all before them in the Currie Cup... until last week’s semi-final.
“You have to put Western Province under pressure, they don’t like pressure,” said coach Robert du Preez.
“The week previous to the semi-final the Bulls were down and out by halftime, but then they came back in the semi and produced a fantastic performance and were unlucky to lose in the end.
“The way they turned it around shows you can never underestimate a team at this level.”
Du Preez, possibly pressing a few WP buttons, said that is possible that the drama of the semi has taken a physical and mental toll on the home team.
“They have played an extra 20 minutes, and were stressed for that extra time, and they were also playing in the later game last Saturday,” he said.
“In a final, it all comes down to those one-percenters. And playing at home, there is always a lot of pressure on you...
“We’re just grateful to be in the final, and it now comes down to how you perform on the day.”
As expected, Du Preez has kept changes to a minimum.
In the backs, Aphelele Fassi comes in on the right wing for concussed Lwazi Mvovo and the loose trio has been rejigged, with Jean-Luc du Preez starting for Jacques Vermeulen, and Tyler Paul moving to No 6.
The versatile Paul has played every position in the loose trio this season, and in Super Rugby played lock.
“Tyler has had an unbelievable season. He’s played some fine rugby, and he’s a great guy to have in the team in that he does a lot of the unseen hard work,” Du Preez said.
“It’s also good to have Jean-Luc back in the mix, we know it’s going to be an abrasive battle, so that’s why we selected him.
“With regards to Fassi, he has had a great season too, and hopefully this final will be the cherry on top for him. It’s unfortunate that Lwazi didn’t make it, but Fassi is a more than capable replacement,” Du Preez concluded.
Captain Louis Schreuder says his teammates are a mixture of tension and calmness, if that makes sense.
“You can feel it is final week, tension and energy levels are up, and you want that. We are trying to stay relaxed, but yes, there is tension,” the former WP man said.
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu 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.
Referee: Jaco Peyper. Kickoff: 4pm.