- Saturday’s Currie Cup final between the Bulls and the Sharks is the ultimate power struggle between two teams set up as the antithesis of the other.
- The Bulls will come in with their bully-ball tactics, while the Sharks want to match those confrontations and sprinkle some silk to the occasion.
- The Sharks back row will have their hands dirty trying to clean out Duane Vermeulen and Marco van Staden.
Saturday’s Currie Cup final between the Bulls and the Sharks is the ultimate power struggle between two teams set up as the antithesis of the other.
The Bulls will come in with their bully-ball tactics, trying to outmuscle the Sharks in key facets such as the scrums, lineout drives and breakdowns.
The Sharks are on a quest to match those confrontations but add their own silky killer instinct to the occasion should they be offered a sniff of space to run into.
The Bulls are supreme bludgeoners. After softening teams up in the forward pack, their outside backs are primed to exploit holes in a punch-drunk defence.
It happened to the Sharks in their last trip to Loftus, where they lost 41-14 last October.
After losing tighthead Thomas du Toit, the Sharks scrum melted under pressure and the Bulls came at them with a voracious appetite for confrontation.
Sharks No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe said this week the Sharks were punished for their mistakes on their last trip to Pretoria, something the Durbanites don’t intend repeating.
"What happened in the past stays in the past," he said.
"You can learn from those games, though. One of those things is, if you make mistakes they’ll punish you.
"We made a lot of mistakes at Loftus in those two games and we got punished for it.
"We’ll learn from it. It’s a final, we’re very excited to play in it but we understand that the Bulls side … we were sort of lucky to get a win at Kings Park last year.
"If Morne Steyn had slotted that penalty, it would have been a draw. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves.
"We understand it’s a huge assignment to go to Loftus."
Key contrasts between the two teams are quite stark in their respective back rows.
Notshe is your archetypal link-man, a ball-carrier extraordinaire, who can match many backs in a dance contest.
However, finals aren’t made for that. They are made for a more stoic approach, the kind his opposite number and Bulls skipper Duane Vermeulen has perfected.
Notshe said the conditions wouldn’t dictate whether or not he would play his natural game.
He would simply do what is required to help halt the Bulls juggernaut, with or without the ball.
"I don’t think about the conditions being favourable or not a lot; I just play the game," said Notshe.
"If it opens up, then it’s my sort of style of play, linking with the backs and forwards.
"But I’ve played in two finals and I’ve never seen the games opening up quite early. They are normally quite tight.
"It’s going to need more of the tight stuff and getting stuck in.
"In saying that, I still want to express myself and play with the energy I bring to the game."
The Bulls will also pose another test: turnover ball.
With Springboks Vermeulen and Marco van Staden pilfering opposition breakdown ball almost at will, Notshe, Dylan Richardson and Henco Venter will have their hands dirty trying to clean out that dangerous duo.
"It’s very important to stop their turnover threat because it kills your rhythm on attack or it slows the ball down," Notshe added.
"It’s very important that we sharpen up on that area of the game. Last weekend we faced some quality Western Province loose-forwards and I think they stole about three of our balls.
"It gives a lot of energy to the defensive side if their fetchers are putting their heads in there and getting rewards.
"We need to make sure we clean up and we are sharp on our breakdown come Saturday."