After a home final

2013-10-12 00:00

THE Sharks and Western Province will be desperately chasing a lucrative Currie Cup home final when they bump in the final round of the league action at King’s Park tonight.

Just a point separates WP and the Sharks at the top of the log, and both have secured home semi-

finals next weekend, but the team winning tonight will be in pole position to host the Currie Cup final in a fortnight.

The Golden Lions, up against Griquas this afternoon, and Free State are favoured to join them in the play-offs, although the Blue Bulls are still hoping to pull a rabbit from the hat in Bloemfontein today.

The teams clashing in Durban are exceedingly well matched with an even spread of Springboks.

The Sharks, with the starting Test front row of Beast Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, would expect to hold sway in the scrums; the athletic Springbok and Province lock Eben Etzebeth will be a dominant figure in the lineouts.

The gainline collisions between four Springbok backrowers, Province’s Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi and the Sharks’ Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee, will be decisive as both teams seek to play the game on the front foot.

But there will be the usual sideshows and a number of individuals have points to prove. The talented young lock Pieter-Steph du Toit will be keen to match the efforts of the excellent Etzebeth while hooker Bismarck du Plessis, no doubt still bristling after his premature and unnecessary substitution at Ellis Park, will want to show that he has more than 50 minutes of rugby in his muscular frame.

Province, in terms of attacking flair, would appear to have the edge with the twinkle-toed outside backs Gio Aplon and Cheslin Kolbe particularly lethal on the counter-attack, and the Sharks’ tactical kicking game, and their chase, will have to be on the button.

The Sharks’ attacking game has spluttered as players have been constantly rotated but they have still scored more tries than Province (27 to 22) this season, while both teams have had their line crossed 20 times.

Province could still lose outside centre Juan de Jongh, who a year back sliced through the Sharks’ defence to score the winning try in the Currie Cup final. De Jongh is struggling with a hamstring injury and backline coach Robbie Fleck said yesterday he had only “a 50-50 chance of playing”.

Michael van der Spuy, rather than Bok captain and centre Jean de Villiers, is standing by to replace De Jongh. Fleck said the plan was to provide De Villiers, who is among the replacements, with a “physical and psychological breather” by playing him off the bench.

Backline coach Sean Everitt said that the Sharks would not change tactically “now we have reached the business end of the competition”.

“In previous games, our set piece has been put under pressure so we are hoping that the returning Springboks will strengthen that department.”

He said that there would be no break in the Sharks’ structures with the Boks returning.

“They were involved at the start of our campaign, we had them all at our preparation week and they’ve been part of our squad when the Springboks have had their byes. They know exactly what’s going on and I don’t see continuity being a problem at all.”

He also did not think they will lack motivation.

“If anything, they’ll try to get over the disappointment of losing to the All Blacks and try to move on and create some success with the Sharks.

“In last year’s final, Province deserved the victory over us because they dominated us physically and we will focus on that and our defence. Province use the width of the field well and they have some dangerous runners, especially in Cheslin Kolbe and Gio Aplon. We’re going to have to do our homework in order to contain them.”

Everitt said that both teams would be striving to secure a home final by winning first tonight and then in the semi-finals next weekend.

“Both teams will feel they owe their supporters a home final,” he said.

While the Sharks have hosted Currie Cup finals in 2008, 2010 and 2012, it has been 12 years since Province were last at home in Cape Town for the climax to the season, and they will be desperate tonight.

Hosting the final is a massive money-spinner both for the host city, the supporters and the home union, which will bank at least R10 million. And, for the Sharks, that would go some way to paying for the many coaches who are either going or coming.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Tim Whitehead, 12. Heimar Williams, 11. Lwazi Mvovo,

10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Peet Marais, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Stephan Lewies, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Patrick Lambie, 22. Louis Ludik.

Western Province: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Siya Kolisi, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Schalk Burger, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Jean de Villiers.

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan. Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

Today’s other matches Cup (home team first): Lions vs Griquas, 3 pm.

Free State vs Blue Bulls, 5.05 pm.

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