Currie Cup Final: Sharks v Western Province Preview

It's the Currie Cup final showdown as the Sharks host the Western Province for top honours on Saturday the 28th of October at the Kings Park Stadium.

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Sharks v Western Province | 28 October 16h00 | Growthpoint Kings Park

To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks 6/10 | Draw 22/1 | Western Province 29/20
Sharks (-4.5) 9/10 | WP (+4.5) 9/10

The 2017 Currie Cup season culminates this Saturday at Kings Park, as the Sharks host Western Province in a rematch of the 2010, 2012 and 2013 Currie Cup Grand Finales. The Durbanites are heavy favourites to end off a superb campaign by securing silverware, but Province, who triumphed 31-20 in KZN just two weeks ago, will certainly have something to say come the late afternoon kick-off.

Robert du Preez deserves huge plaudits for the way in which he has moulded the Sharks into the abrasive, no-nonsense rugby team we see today. The former Springbok scrumhalf hasn’t been at the helm at all long, but his influence has clearly made a big difference to a franchise that has been caught between different styles of football over the past few seasons. A strong set-piece, tactical awareness and defence-based attack is now the order of the day for the men in black and white, and this balanced method will certainly stand them in good stead looking ahead to the 2018 Super Rugby campaign.

Having finished the regular season a whopping 10 log points ahead of the nearest-placed WP, the Natalians have quite rightly been regarded as favourites ahead of this Saturday’s clash. This is a Sharks outfit that has lost just two games and which boasts the best defensive record of all the unions that competed in 2017, conceding 229-points. Considering WP can call upon the attacking threats of the likes of Damian Willemse, Huw Jones and Seabalo Senatla - all of whom come into this one in incredible form - the Sharks may well be up for their sternest test yet. But defence, as the old adage goes, does win finals, and the Durbanites will certainly back their structures to limit Province’s offensive capabilities.

The Sharks began their semi-final win over the Blue Bulls like a house on fire, scoring two early tries to lead 14-0 after just seven minutes, but you’d expect them to play slightly more conservatively in the title-deciders opening exchanges. They will look to play deep inside WP territory and perhaps milk penalties through their industrious forwards. They can also rely upon the goal kicking exploits of Curwin Bosch to apply pressure, with the youngster particularly adept at slotting crucial drop-goals at key moments. Ultimately, if the Sharks pack can outmuscle their Capetonian counterparts, Bosch will see his side to victory.

Western Province 
Western Province seem to be peaking at just the right time following a rather by-the-numbers regular-season, which saw them sneak into second-spot after winning seven and losing five of their round-robin match-ups. Their win at the Shark Tank in the forth night was a superb showing from the men from the Mother City. While their 19-5 semi-final victory over the Golden Lions was both slick and clinical in equal measure, flyhalf Robert du Preez, coming up against his father and two brothers, has been electric of late, and his physical presence at first receiver may well be a key element on Saturday.

While du Preez will undoubtedly have a huge role to play, he will be left stranded if his forward pack fails to gain any kind of ascendency. Indeed, the scrum battle may well be worth the price of the admission fee alone, with the scrum showdown between Wilco Louw and Thomas du Toit expected to be particularly mouth-watering. The Province heavies will face their litmus test this weekend, and the manner in which they front up against the likes of du Toit, Ruan Botha and the du Preez twins will determine how well they fare in this contest.

Despite the fact that the hosts are heavily favoured, I genuinely believe that the day will belong to Province. Key-operators are coming into form at just the right time, and I see Wilco Louw, JD Schickerling and company dominating the Sharks up front to lay the platform for victory. Du Preez at 10 is a scintillating prospect and if he attacks the advantage-line even half as ferociously as he did last week, then Bosch and his backs may well struggle to adjust. The likes of Willemse will no doubt be brought into the attack after the first few phases, and his stepping skills will be hard to stop from broken field. It’s a big call, but I think an upset is well and truly on the cards.

Western Province (+4.5) 29/20
I’m going against every fibre of my being as a Durbanite myself, but I can’t shake the feeling that WP’s heavy-men will have a lot to say on Saturday. If the contest does stay too tight for too long, the Sharks may have an advantage via the drop goal boot of Bosch, but the Sharks-bound du Preez may just orchestrate an upset from the first-five, and leave his other three-family members in his wake. I’m backing WP to take it by between three and eight-points.

Written by Shaun Goosen for

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