Vodacom Cup: R1m for winners
Johannesburg - The richest prize in South African domestic rugby is up for grabs when the Blue Bulls host the Free State Cheetahs in a repeat of 2008's Vodacom Cup final at Loftus B on Friday.
Two years ago, it was a controversial TMO call that gave the title and R1 million prize to the Bulls, 25-21.
The Blue Bulls, as they did last year, go into the final unbeaten in their league matches and of course the quarters and semi-finals.
To a large degree it will be the Blue Bulls pack against the gutsy Free State Cheetahs with their experienced flyhalf Louis Strydom their kingpin around whom their game will most likely be built.
Strydom was the man whose control of the quarter-final against the Lions and the semi against Boland Cavaliers clinched matters for his side with his accurate kicking doing the rest.
Not that the Free State are a one-man band. Far from it. The way their forwards turned matters around in the quarterfinal against the Lions two weeks ago after being under the cosh in the first half, will make the Bulls realise they cannot take anything for granted.
In many ways it will be a match-up between experience and promise at halfback, where Strydom's opponent is young Francois Brummer. He has been outstanding in recent weeks, and the Blue Bulls will no doubt rely on him to get their forwards in the right positions from which to add their driving play to the game plan.
For the Free State, however, there is the sobering thought they have won only one of their ten Vodacom Cup encounters against the Blue Bulls, who have lost only two home games in the last three years. That was against Griquas (19-28) in last year's final and against Western Province (35-37) in 2008.
But for the Free State there is also the knowledge that they have come very close to winning in all three play-offs, losing 21-25 in the 2008 final, and 20-24 (2004) and 38-39 (2001) in two semifinals.
Seven Blue Bulls players in tomorrow's final were members of the squad that won the 2008 final against the Free State while there are eight survivors of the 2009 final that will participate in Friday's game.
The Bulls will also be competing in their fourth consecutive final on Friday afternoon. - the second time that they have played in four consecutive finals after also playing in the finals of 2001-2004.
The winning team will receive R500 000 while their union will receive R500 000 for rugby development in their region.
The kick-off is at 4pm.