Province out to end a long wait
October 28, 2010
The Sharks, and back-rower Keegan Daniel, are out to wrap up the Currie Cup this weekend © Getty Images
South Africa's domestic season is set to come to a thrilling conclusion on Saturday as the Sharks and Western Province contest the Currie Cup final at a packed out Kings Park in Durban.
The sides finished the regular season in first and second and underlined their credentials as the best practitioners in this season's tournament with victories over the Blue Bulls and Free State Cheetahs in the semi-finals.
The Sharks last lifted the silverware in 2008, beating the Bulls, but Western Province are eyeing the end of a painful wait. Their Super 14 incarnation, the Stormers, came up short in this season's final while WP have not tasted domestic success since 2001 - when they conquered the Sharks.
Natal Sharks - Player to Watch: Patrick Lambie is a hugely impressive young footballer but remains untested in the rarefied atmosphere of a major final, particularly given his vital role at fly-half. Sharks boss John Plumtree has kept faith in the youngster - who was recently called up to the Springbok training squad - by leaving the experienced Andre Pretorius on the bench.
Natal Sharks - Team News: Odwa Ndungane returns on the wing in the only change from the side that defeated the Blue Bulls. Bismarck du Plessis joins brother Jannie in the front-row while veteran Stefan Terblanche skippers the side from outside-centre.
Western Province - Player to Watch: Flanker Schalk Burger is used to success in the green of the Springboks but the Province skipper will need to find an added edge from his players after a number of them shared in the Stormers' Super 14 disappointment.
Western Province - Team News: Allister Coetzee has named an unchanged matchday 22 for the game, meaning that Springboks Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Conrad Jantjes, Jean De Villiers and Francois Louw will all be on parade.
Key Battle: The Province backline has a sprinkling of stardust but it is their gnarled forward pack that has made major strides in recent seasons. Anton van Zyl has been a rock since joining while their loose-trio has the match of any in South Africa. The Sharks can boast plenty of grunt themselves however and Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel will fancy their chances of making a major dent at the breakdown.
Trivia: In 1891 the touring British Isles awarded the Currie Cup to Griqualand West after they provided the sternest test for the tourists. The Cup had been given to the Lions by Sir Donald Currie, owner of the shipping company that had transported the squad to Africa.
Stats: The Sharks racked up nine try bonus-points during the regular season - a total beaten only by the Griquas, who managed to end with a minus in the points difference column.
"It's great that we're playing the final at home and able to treat our fans to this kind of event, we've worked really hard to get here all year and now we've got it. However, while the support is great, it's not going to bring home the trophy; we have to make it happen ourselves and the players understand that." - Sharks boss John Plumtree
"The unchanged squad makes for continuity in the ranks, and it's a matter of building on the team's momentum. It's great that we are able to select an unchanged side and it will do the players' confidence a world of good." - Province boss Allister Coetzee
Prediction: The Sharks will be backed by 50,000+ fans and given the tight contests between the sides already this season - they traded home wins - the men from Durban should nick a thriller.
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