Johannesburg - The Sharks come to Newlands for Saturday’s
eagerly anticipated Currie Cup final as a well-balanced and determined team,
but Western Province’s biggest challenge may well be how they deal with the
pressure that sometimes comes with playing the competition decider at home.
Playing the decider at Newlands is a massive advantage for
WP, and the Province assistant coach Dawie Snyman has spoken about the need for
the players to go out and enjoy the moment they have worked so hard through the
season at setting up, according to SuperSport.com.
The Cape side, perhaps more so when wearing Stormers colours
in Super Rugby than in the domestic competition, has at times succumbed to the
pressure of playing at home in the past, and the recent WP/Sharks finals show
an interesting trend.
There have been seven finals between the two teams since the
start of the professional era in 1995, with WP winning four and the Sharks
winning three. In 1995 the home team (the Sharks) won, but in 2000 it was the
visiting team (WP) who walked away with the golden trophy.
WP defended their title by beating the Sharks at home the
following year, representing a rare back to back sequence in recent times
(could that be an omen?).
In 2010 it was again the turn of the home team to win,
meaning that in the first four meetings everything was quite ordered and went
according to what would have been expected - just one away win in four games.
Since then though that has changed dramatically, with the away team winning all
In 2012, when an understrength WP team won in Durban, and in
2013, when the underdog Sharks avenged that loss in Cape Town, the results were
Maybe last year’s win for WP, which was achieved in a game where
they started as underdogs but not by much, was less so, which prompted Snyman
to suggest that playing at Kings Park did not necessarily mean there was less
pressure than there will be for WP at home this weekend.
“I really don’t think there was any less pressure on us in
Durban last year,” said Snyman.
“Yes, we were underdogs going into the Durban game last
year, and the Sharks did top the log, but we had beaten them at Kings Park in
the round robin game just a few weeks before that.
So it wasn’t as if we went
into that final without any hope or expectation. We knew we could win and that
knowledge did create pressure. It was not as if there was nothing on the game
So it was not as if WP went to KZN 12 months ago with the
mind-set that they could just go for broke and chance their arm in the hope
that it would come off.
According to Ruhan Nel, who as a former Blitzbok of long
standing knows a lot about pressure and the constricting influence of nerves,
the biggest challenge on Saturday will be to ensure that the nerves don’t
impact on the adventurous rugby WP have produced en route to the final.
“A big challenge to confront is going into a final with
absolute freedom,” said Nel during the build-up week to Saturday’s decider.
“In a final, when the pressure is on, you can get into a
box, stifle your freedom to safety first tactics. The coaches have empowered us
players with the responsibility to take charge ourselves, coaches like Dawie
have inspired us to play what is in front of us.
“We need to continue to rely on what we did to get to the
final, which is expressive, attacking play. If you start changing stuff now
just because it is a final you are changing what you are as a team.”
Snyman agrees, and said WP would stick with what has worked.
“Play-off rugby can be a little different, but I think we
will stick to our strengths. The play-offs bring a different kind of pressure,
that is true, but we must just get our balance right. That is something we got
wrong at the weekend in the semi-final against the Bulls. There were stages
when we attacked when it was not on to do so. And when we kicked we didn’t kick
“One of our strengths this season has been the balance that
we bring, our ability to mix good attack with good kicking, but we didn’t mix
it up well this past weekend and that was one of the reasons that our
performance wasn’t great. It is something we have discussed and focused on in
team meetings and hopefully we will get it right against the Sharks.”
Both Nel and Snyman agree that to win the trophy they are
going to have to deal with a team that is well balanced and which, if it has
weaknesses, they are hard to pinpoint.
“They have a good set piece, they are physical and there
forwards like to offload and are good at it. They keep the ball alive, and then
Louis (Schreuder), Rob (Du Preez) and Curwin (Bosch) boast great kicking games.
They have hard running centres, strong and quick wings - they are a tough team
to prepare against and play against. We will have to be at our best.”
Snyman does not believe the Currie Cup league game between
the sides, in which WP posted 50 points, should be used as a reference point by
“We know we put 50 points on them last time but it was a
tight game. We were up just 31-28 at a stage of the second half and the Sharks
had momentum then. There are a few take-outs we can take from that game, but
this will be a different game, and we know that.”
READ the story on SuperSport