Cape Town – Western Province’s ability to strike in a flash from turnover ball possibly tilts the scales in their favour for the Currie Cup final, says Keith Andrews, part of the WP team which won the last showpiece meeting against the Lions (then Transvaal) at Newlands back in 1986.
READ: WP v Lions - 4 gripping duels
Tighthead prop Andrews, who was 24 at the time and won his first of two winning medals in the final – the next was 11 years later in his swansong season when Free State were pipped 14-12 – believes Saturday’s clash will be the tight affair many predict it to be.
“I think we might come under some pressure in the scrums, but otherwise things should be pretty square up front,” he told Sport24.
“Finals are finals ... it’s all about taking your chances. You can’t under-estimate home ground advantage, and Province’s ability to suddenly dot down under the posts from a steal at the breakdown far out is well known.
“My loyalty says narrow WP win!”
Andrews, now 52 and a director for Personal Trust in the financial services industry, is well-versed in seeing seizure of opportunities clinch the big prize: he was a grateful onlooker from not too far away when WP centre Goggie van Heerden dramatically put the hitherto see-sawing 1986 final to bed with two late virtuoso tries.
He admits the game had been in a knife edge with the hosts leading only 10-9 at an advanced stage, until Van Heerden’s double strike gave the final score a slightly flattering look at 22-9 – the record fifth title in a row for a golden-era Province team. The run came to an end the next year.
Considering the 28-year time lapse, Andrews, who went on to become a nine-cap Springbok, still has fairly vivid recollections of the showpiece.
“Hempies (du Toit) was in the tail-end of his career and becoming a bit injury-prone, so I got my big chance to play a maiden final; Shaun Povey was my hooker and I was fortunate in general terms to be in a side so laden with previous Currie Cup winners.
“It’s so much easier to be among such experience on a day like that as a nerve settler; I just rode the wave.”
Andrews’s direct opponent was the Transvaal loosehead Barabas Venter -- a Boksburg-based school teacher of at least reasonably biblical proportions, as his name implies – who went on to earn more than 100 caps for his province.
“Ja, he was a big chap but a pleasant fellow ... tough on the park but a gentleman off it. In those days you always had a beer afterwards with your opponents and I could chat to him about what he thought, for instance, any of my shortcomings at scrum-time had been – remember I was a recently retreaded flank then, so I enjoyed feedback.
“The reports on the game are true: we probably did start to take a forward grip as the game wore on in warm and windless conditions; kind of a slow poison.”
Andrews said that not too long before the final, Transvaal had rather “cleaned us upfront” in a round-robin meeting.
“So before the final, under the supervision of (pack coach) Hennie Bekker, we literally did hours and hours of scrumming, until late at night. It was none of the modern ’20 good scrums’ thing: we must’ve done 100-plus! But it paid off a bit ...”
*For the nostalgically-minded, these were the starting teams for the 1986 final:
WP: Calla Scholtz, Clark Ellis, Faffa Knoetze, Goggie van Heerden, Carel du Plessis (capt), Chris Smit, Freddie Ferreira, Gert Smal, Deon Lotter, Tiaan Strauss, Niel Hugo, Schalk Burger, Keith Andrews, Shaun Povey, Bill Nieuwoudt.
Transvaal: Jannie Tiedt, Hempas Rademeyer, Dries Maritz, Hugo van As, Liaan Kirkham, Schalk Naude, John Robbie, Jannie Breedt (capt), Pote Fourie, Wahl Bartmann, Lappies Labuschagne, Daan Badenhorst, Piet Kruger, Chris Rogers, Barabas Venter.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing