It’s safe to say that we’ve neglected the Currie Cup throughout it’s duration, but no longer! Saturday afternoon sees the Lions and the Sharks go up against each other to compete for the oldest domestic trophy in the world. But who will win?
Kick-Off: 15:00 (17:00 SA Time)
Under the wise eyes of John Mitchell, and with some serious financial backing, the Lions are beginning to become a force again. They boast a squad including well known names such as CJ Van der Linde, Butch James and Wikus Van Heerden, and exceptional young talent in fly-half Elton Jantjies, winger Michael Killian, and captain Joshua Strauss, he in possession of Rugby’s best beard. This is the first final since 1999, when the Lions coincidentally defeated the Sharks. They will be hoping for a similar outcome 12 years later.
The Durban outfit have been hugely boosted by the return of their World Cup contingent, with Pat Lambie, Willem Alberts, JP Pietersen and the whole front row of Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and the du Plessis brothers. This in part saw them thump the Lions 53-9 two weeks ago before the semi-finals, although the opposition were weaker than the side that will run out at Ellis Park this weekend. After seeing off the Cheetahs last weekend, they should be the favourites for this one.
What to Expect:
A very open, very quick encounter. Both sides have exceptional flyers, JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane for the Sharks, Killian and Jaco Taute for the Lions. The Sharks set piece is run incredibly efficiently, Bismarck rarely missing his mark in the lineout and a monstrous scrum battle between Jannie du Plessis and Van Der Linde is worth looking out for. As well as pace though, there will be a huge level of physicality. Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel will look to quell the ferocious bulk of Strauss and Derick Minnie, whilst both packs have lightning back rowers in Ryan Kankowski and Michael Rhodes. Just so much talent everywhere you look.
Head to Head: Elton Jantjies v Frédéric Michalak
The young pretender against one of the games greatest magicians. Jantjies has really matured over the last calendar year in Super Rugby and now in the Currie Cup, controlling the side and keeping Butch James on the bench. His eye for a gap is as good as the likes of Cooper and Cipriani, and he has the wheels as well. Opposite him, Michalak will always be one of the great entertainers, but the control he brings to the Sharks is huge. Paired at half back with hot young talent Conrad Hoffman, it will be Michalak’s task to get Marius Joubert and Stefan Terblance to make space for the quick boys.
All Eyes On: Pat Lambie & Jaco Taute
Two speedsters in the back three both happen to be their respective sides kickers as well. Taute is developing nicely under Mitchell’s teachings, whilst Lambie is one of the best young players in the world right now, and set to be a future Springbok for the next decade.
Last Result: Sharks 53-9 Lions, Durban, 15/10/11
Prediction: We’re looking at a 40/50 point final here. But who will edge it? Purely on the quality of their players, the Sharks by 2.
by Ben Coles