Ball-in-hand sides should entertain us

Currie Cup final retains its integrity

26 October 2017 - 07:24 By Gary Gold
ITS TIME IS COMING: The Currie Cup will be held aloft on Saturday.
ITS TIME IS COMING: The Currie Cup will be held aloft on Saturday.
Image: Gallo Images

The Currie Cup remains a wonderful tournament steeped in history, and the fact that the top two teams over the course of the current campaign will meet in the final at Kings Park on Saturday ensures that the world's oldest provincial rugby competition retains its integrity.

I foresee the final at the Shark Tank proving a real spectacle because the respective head coaches, John Dobson and Robert du Preez, encourage a ball-in-hand approach.

As a consequence, neither team will look to play conservatively, nor will they retreat into their proverbial shells. The finalists will take to the field and want to win the contest by scoring more tries than their opponent.

The Sharks and Western Province are playing a great brand of rugby this term and I don't remember being as excited ahead of a Currie Cup in a long time purely as a purist of the oval-shaped game.

While a solid platform has to be laid upfront, both sides' strength lies in the X-factor of their attacking flair. I don't feel either team has the edge in any particular department and that is what makes the final such an exciting prospect.

You could maybe say the scale is ever so slightly weighted in the Sharks' favour because they have only lost two games all season and will enjoy home-ground advantage. However, the fact that the team they are playing against in the decider beat them in their own back yard only two weeks ago cannot be discounted.

It would be na�ve to think that Western Province's victory over the Sharks in round 14 won't have any bearing leading up to the final. However, I'm of the view that it will all come down to the right mental preparation.

T-Cup, which stands for thinking clearly under pressure, is an acronym often referred to by Clive Woodward. The messages the players receive in the week leading up to the final need to be consistent with what they have heard from the respective coaching staffs all season. In a cup final the margins are small and the pressure is magnified.

The team that best handle the big moments and turn pressure into points will get over the line. From experience, there are probably going to be no more than 10 opportunities in the match per team and the side that are most clinical and convert the bulk will end up taking the spoils.

Odwa Ndungane will play his 251st and final match for the Sharks before heading into retirement. I'm sad for S'bu Nkosi, who has been ruled out of the final owing to an elbow injury, because he is a prodigious talent but Odwa will definitely not let the Sharks down on the weekend.

Odwa is a brilliant leader of men, an absolute inspiration and one of the best human beings I have ever had the privilege of coaching. His teammates hang on his every word, whether it's Keegan Daniel, who has walked the road with him for 12 years; or 20-year-old Curwin Bosch.

Winning the Currie Cup in his last-ever appearance would be a fairytale finish for Odwa but, in the grander scheme of things, the result is actually irrelevant because nobody will be able to take away the legacy that he will leave behind in Durban.