DHL Western Province vs Steval Pumas | Saturday 30 May | Newlands, Cape Town | 14:10
With all eyes strongly focused on Super Rugby the intriguing Vodacom Cup has slipped under the radar somewhat. The competition has been a breeding ground for South Africa’s emerging rugby talent with many a Springbok learning their craft at this level. It will be the first time Newlands hosts said final and only the second time Western Province have made it through to the title decider. Their opponents for the weekend will be playing in the showpiece for the second time in three years. The odds are certainly stacked against Mpumalanga’s representatives as is illustrated by the stats; Province have won six of the nine encounters between the two sides over the years, while the Pumas last tasted victory in Cape Town back in 2002. It should be an epic encounter with Province strong favourites to trounce their less fancied opponent, however, the Pumas have revelled in their underdog role and knocked out the tournament favourites in their quarter-final. The match is a very fitting way for Newlands to open its 125th birthday celebrations.
To Win (80mins)
Western Province 1/4
To Lift the Trophy
Western Province 2/9
Western Province (-9) 9/10
Pumas (+9) 9/10
DHL Western Province
Western Province have had a straightforward road to the final. They topped the South division log and went on to knock the Leopards out in their quarter-final. Last weekend saw the men in blue and white emerge victorious in a tightly contested semi-final against the Bulls XV. Calls-ups to the senior side as well as U20 World Cup commitments has forced Province coach John Dobson to shuffle his deck. Jean Luc Du Plessis moves to fullback in place of Baby Bok EW Viljoen, while Justin Benn comes in for Sikhumbuzo Notshe who will be on the bench for the Stormers game against the Cheetahs. There are also a few more positional switches with the impressive Robert Du Preez moving from inside centre to fly-half while Springbok Jaco Taute shifts from outside to inside centre. The centre pairing of Taute and Howard may be the determining factor in Province getting their hands on the trophy.
The Pumas’ run to the final was in complete contrast to their opponents. Unfancied after finishing third on the North division log, the men from Nelspruit have peaked during the knockout phase. They beat Griquas in Kimberley in their quarter-final and then went on to knock out the previously undefeated Lions last weekend at Ellis Park. Former Sharks and Griquas winger MJ Mentz is the current man in charge at the Pumas and he has done a fantastic job in getting his charges through to what will be their second final in two years. The Pumas line-up contains former Blitzbokke stalwart Rosco Speckman as well as the experienced Stefan Watermeyer, who used to make a living playing for the Bulls. The Pumas will hope that their seasoned side can put their experience to good use and outthink their young opponents.
VERDICT: Western Province
We should be in for a tight affair at Newlands come Saturday afternoon. It could come down to that one moment of magic that allows either of these sides to grasp the cup. That being said, I think Province have the man to do just that in the form of Jaco Taute. Back the men in the blue and white to pick up the victory in normal time.