Currie Cup

Why WP may be less nervy

2014-10-21 23:37
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Been there, done that ... having been participants in several showpieces in recent seasons is a factor that arguably weighs in favour of Western Province for Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Golden Lions at Newlands here.

The log-toppers from ordinary season have the additional advantage of partisan home support at an expected full stadium, although on the flip side you will certainly find a fair number of WP diehards hugely wary of the threat the Lions could pose and prepared to concede that a potentially 50-50 clash is on the cards.

After all, the Lions’ powerful and up-tempo 50-20 demolition of defending champions the Sharks at Ellis Park last weekend suggests they can lay claim to being the form outfit going into the showpiece.

The teams are all square in this season’s result column between the two, with Province having beaten the Highvelders 27-14 at Newlands on August 23 and the Lions earning bragging rights in the Big Smoke on September 13, when they won 35-33.

Interestingly, too, at last glance at a Sport24 readers’ poll, there was 51% backing for Johan Ackermann’s charges to claim the cup, with 42% tipping Province and a further seven percent saying it is simply too tight to call.

But if hairs are going to be split in the lead-up to attempt to sway the views of neutrals on the 2014 final, then perhaps WP’s appearances in three of the last four of them need to be taken into account, don’t they?

Certainly there are a fair number of Province players who should not be too stricken by butterflies before and then into Saturday’s appealing showdown: this applies particularly, in terms of finals “caps”, to skipper and midfield dynamo Juan de Jongh and likely front-row substitute Brok Harris, both of whom can boast match-day involvement in each of the 2010, 2012 and 2013 big occasions.

Of course WP have only won one of those three finals, the middle one in Durban where they beat the Sharks 25-18 a little against expectation -- but defeat on a blue-chip day is sometimes said to be as educative and toughening for future purposes as victory.

For four other Province players, hooker Scarra Ntubeni, flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis and the two scrumhalves Nic Groom and Louis Schreuder, this will be their third final appearance in as many years.

An additional quartet – Cheslin Kolbe, Pat Cilliers, Michael Rhodes and Kurt Coleman – are likely to be involved in second Currie Cup finals on the trot.

A little cruelly for the Lions, there is the extra fact to consider that Cilliers, Rhodes and Jaco Taute (if the last-named utility player is declared fit for involvement this week) boast cup-winning medals in the very colours of the Johannesburg outfit from their presence in the 2011 team under Josh Strauss which routed a Springbok-laden Sharks side 42-16 at Ellis Park – they now put that experience to use against the Lions.

It is likely that the visitors’ match-day squad on Saturday will include only two players who were triumphant for the red-and-whites on that momentous day: dependable flank Derick Minnie and current No 8 and captain Warren Whiteley, who was on the bench then.

Their staffing is much-changed, when you consider the subsequent exodus from the fold of once-staple names like Strauss, Wikus van Heerden, Elton Jantjies and JC Janse van Rensburg.

So Province do appear to boast a clear edge in cup final “BMT” for the 2014 edition of the domestic showpiece.

Mind you, this Lions side has a happy knack of producing its best qualities and admirable unity when the chips appear down for them, either on the field or on paper beforehand ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    golden lions  |  wp  |  currie cup  |  allister coetzee  |  cape town  |  rugby

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