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
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