The northern hemisphere returns to domestic competition this weekend after two weeks of Heineken Cup and thoughts are already turning to the Autumn International Series in each of the 6 Nations. We tend to get locked into our own little rugby world here in Europe at this time of he year.
But tomorrow sees the climax of one of the greatest and one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world, the Currie Cup. The Currie Cup dates back to 1889 and has been the jewel in the South African Rugby crown ever since. The trophy was given to the Lions, by Sir Donald Currie back in 1891, at the beginning of their tour of South Africa. He asked them to present the trophy to the team that gave them the best game on tour. That honour fell to Griqualand West.
Even the onset of professionalism has failed to detract for the importance of the trophy to South Africans and it has been a hugely coveted prize throughout its history. That’s why tomorrow’s final between two iconic names in South African Rugby, Western Province and Natal Sharks, will be a titanic struggle like many of the previous finals.
Western Province are the current holders of the trophy and go into the game as favourites. This is a reversal from last year, when as underdogs, they defeated the Sharks in the final. They also are undefeated this season in the tournament, which includes two victories over the Sharks.
Like any local derby with pride on the line the favourites tag will count for nothing. The Sharks will surely want to exact revenge for last year’s defeat, and with both teams laden with Springboks, back from international duty, all bets are off.
Apart from the honour of winning the Currie Cup, there is an extra incentive for Western Province to repeat their victory of last year. If they win they will complete the Currie Cup undefeated for the first time since 1936.
Western Province will be looking to Gio Aplon to ignite things behind the pack. He has top end speed and has been in electric for throughout the competition. For the Sharks, Bismarck du Plessis, with his physicality and speed, will be the go to guy particularly in broken play. Whoever wins the battle of the fly-halves, between Patrick Lambie for the Sharks and Demetri Catrakilis for Western Province, will have a big say in the outcome.
It will be a bruising and hugely intense game showcasing South African Rugby at it’s very best. It kicks off at 5:50pm South African time and well worth watching.