And here it is, after about 3 months of intense and competitive provincial rugby, it all boils down to the 80 minutes of finals rugby on Saturday from 5.30pm at Coca-Cola Park in Joburg, where the Lions host the Sharks for the overall spoils in the 2011 Kerrie Beker final.
And what a final it should be, with two very different teams built around two very different team perspectives, each attempting to impose their brand of rugby on the other. The Lions have played this entire competition – along with the Super Rugby competition that preceded it – with basically the same group of players, whereas the Sharks offered up a number of players in key positions to the national cause at the World Cup. Those players are now obviously back in the mix and Sharks coach John Plumtree will be hoping that they have all been blended seamlessly into their provincial unit.
This all sets us up nicely for a bit of a group-of-stars versus overachieving team-of-nobodies match-up, and to be honest, that’s the type of contest I really like – on paper an apparent mismatch as the Sharks seem to have the quality players in at least 10 of the 15 positions, whereas the Lions have arguably moulded together into a much better functioning unit than any other team in the competition this year, to the credit of their coach John Mitchell. It’ll be a disservice to the Lions to call this a David-and-Goliath match-up, since they very deservedly ended on top of the Currie Cup log after the pool stages, but the fact that they head into this final with very few players with any type of finals experience versus a group of Sharks players used to playing in finals along with the mental rigors of full-blown international rugby, makes for an interesting dynamic on Saturday.
Picking this one is a bit of a ‘mare, but the fairytale has the Lions winning the Currie Cup this year with a team of nobodies, and I like fairytales…
Lions by 5.
Head to Head in Currie Cup Finals
Golden Lions 13
The Sharks 14
Golden Lions 21
The Sharks 15
Golden Lions 15
The Sharks 33
Golden Lions 32
The Sharks 9
Golden Lions won 2
The Sharks won 2
Golden Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse/JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Warren Whiteley, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan Des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.
The Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Marius Joubert, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Jean Deysel, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.