Golden Lions v Western Province | Saturday 24 October | Emirates Airline Park | 13:15
In a repeat of last year’s final, the Lions take on Western Province at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon. Province claimed the spoils at Newlands last year in a close fought affair which ended 19-16. The Lions will be looking to get their first Currie Cup title under their belts since 2011.
So will the Currie Cup continue to reside in Cape Town or will it find a new home in Johannesburg?
To Win (80 Mins)
Lions (-7.5) 9/10
Province (+7.5) 9/10
To Lift The Cup
The Lions have definitely been the form side in this year’s competition. They are unbeaten thus far and could well finish the tournament undefeated. They should be wary, though, as their opposition for this weekend also managed an undefeated run on their way to the final in 2013. They then lost the final to the Natal Sharks.
They may have been champions elect for a while now but Johan Ackerman would have drummed it into his side that winning all your round-robin fixtures doesn’t make you Currie Cup title holders, it’s winning the final two games that does.
They weren’t at their last week but they still managed to see off a spirited Free Cheetahs side. The game served as a timely reminder for the Lions that they cannot rest on their laurels especially with a fired up Province coming to town.
Marnitz Boshoff will be key to the Lions chances in this one, the diminutive ten will be coming up against another youngster in Robert du Preez. While the battle between the two young pivots will make for interesting viewing, the battle between the two set of loose forwards is could be even more intriguing. It may well be a case of whoever dominates the breakdown and kicks their goals wins the game.
The Lions bid to win the breakdown battle will be boosted by the return of Kwagga Smith. The tear away flanker is one of three changes to the Lions starting fifteen. He is joined in the run on side by Robbie Coetzee who comes in at hooker for Malcolm Marx. The other change to the side sees Rohan Janse van Rensburg come into the outside centre berth in place of Stokkies Hanekom.
While the men from the Cape have endured a far more difficult campaign than their counterparts from Gauteng. They do have one thing in their favour, they’ve peaked at the right time. Province have improved a lot since their ignominious defeat at Emirates Airline park in round nine. They illustrated this last week by defeating the Bulls at Loftus.
While it was only a narrow victory it did illustrate that their away game woes are starting to abate. Most of their losses in the round robin phase came away from home. While it will be a big ask to go to the Lions Den and get a result, I think the victory over the Bulls will have given them a massive psychological lift. If they can keep themselves in the game like they did last week, then they may be able to sneak a victory in the dying few minutes.
John Dobson hasn’t made any changes to his side and Province will field the same team that managed to knock the Bulls out of the tournament last weekend.
Stats That Matter
Lions Flyhalf, Marnitz Boshoff, leads this year’s Currie Cup points scoring charts. The diminutive pivot has notched up 175 points this season, with the majority of his tally coming courtesy of his right boot. While the Lions first five-eighth may only have one try to his name, he does have three drop goals, which is a useful stat to have, when you consider how tight Saturday’s game could be. While Province don’t have an experienced ten to call upon, they do have young prospect Robert du Preez. The flyhalf was in emaculate form against the Bulls last Friday and will be key to Provinces’ hopes of winning the coveted trophy. The Province youngster contributed eleven points to his team's tally last week and seamlessly made the step up to Currie Cup knockout rugby.
The two sides last met in round nine, where Province suffered a 63-32 defeat. They contested last year’s final as well, which was saw a scoreline of 19-16 in favour of the Capetonians. The total points margins in the last three Currie cup finals have not passed fifty points. Three of the last five finals have been won by the home side.
Verdict:Lions (-7.5) 9/10
The Lions don’t really do traditional finals rugby and for this reason, I’ve backed them to eclipse the 7.5 margin. They will be looking to run the ball and a sure to get a few tries, this should see them past the handicap.