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Pie and coffee at Newlands

It was the year of the rebels – both on and off the field. But it was also a year of exciting, intriguingly good rugby.

I speak of 1986, the last time the Western Province and Transvaal went head-to-head in a Currie Cup Final.

This was the year when the New Zealand Cavaliers toured South Africa. They were Rebels, literally.

The reason why I go back nearly three decades, is because the two teams – WP and Lions – will turn back the clock when they meet in the showcase event of South African rugby at Newlands on Saturday.

There is no doubt that the two best, and most consistent, teams of 2014 will get into an arm wrestle on Saturday – for the right to hold Sir Donald Currie's donation in their trophy cabinet for the next year.

Just like 28 years ago these are the two teams that dished up the most exciting rugby.

And it suggests that we can expect an entertaining spectacle.

There is so much that the two finals – 1986 and 2014 – have in common.

The forwards of the Lions (formerly Transvaal) were rated higher than their opponents. The current front row – Ruan Dreyer, Robbie Coetzee and Schalk van der Merwe, with guys like Armand van der Merwe and Julian Redelinghuys that can come on as substitutes – are just as impressive as the veterans of 1986 – Piet Kruger, Chris Rogers and Barabas Venter.

Transvaal had among their loose forwards Springboks Jannie Breed and Wahl Bartman, with the grizzled veteran Daan Badenhorst at lock.

Not that Transvaal didn't have talented backs. Hugo van As, an underrated centre, scored the first try of the game – when a kick was charged down. There was also the British and Irish Lions scrumhalf  John Robbie, who settled in South Africa after the in 1980 tour.

The class of 2014 will rely heavily on backs like Lionel Mapoe and Marnitz Boshoff.

WP also had a few bruisers in their pack. Gert Smal, currently Director of Rugby at Western Province, was one of the powerhouses in the Cape side. Also in that pack was Springbok lock Schalk Burger, father of current Bok loose forward Schalk Burger jnr.

But it is among the backs where legends like Carel du Plessis, Faffa Knoetze and Goggie van Heerden created havoc. Knoetze scored one and Van Heerden scored two late tries in a game in which the Province had to wait until the last 10 minutes before sealing a 22-9 victory.

And this coming Saturday WP will again rely on the pace and exceptional skills of flyers like Cheslin Kolbe and Seabelo Senatla. It's not too far-fetched to suggest that the latter, Senatla, will become a legend just like Du Plessis.

The one big difference between this week and 1986 (which incidentally was my first Currie Cup Final as a journalist) is that I will not be able to enjoy a pie and coffee under the grandstand. That old 'restaurant' and its tradition has made way for the sake of modernization.

Province and Transvaal (now Lions) have met just four times in finals. Three of them were at Newlands and they won two each.

WP against Transvaal in finals:

1939: Transvaal 17-6 won in Cape Town

1947: Western Province 16-12 won in Cape Town

1950 Transvaal won 22-11 in Johannesburg

1986: Western Province 22-9 won in Cape Town

* Incidentally, the 1986 Final was the end of an era for WP rugby, after they had won the Currie Cup trophy five years in a row. The following year, Carel du Plessis and his brother Michael played for Transvaal in the Final against Northern Transvaal.

Teams from 1986

Western Province: 15 Calla Scholtz, 14 Carel du Plessis (captain), 13 Goggie van Heerden, 12 Faffa Knoetze, 11 Clark Ellis, 10 Chris Smit, 9 Freddie Ferreira, 8 Gert Smal, 7 Deon Lötter, 6 Tiaan Strauss, 5 Schalk Burger (snr), 4 Neil Hugo, 3 Keith Andrews, 2 Shaun Povey, 1 Bill Niewoudt.

William Cockerill replaced Povey in the first half.

Transvaal: 15 Jannie Tiedt, 14 Liaan Kirkham, 13 Dries Maritz, 12 Hugo van As, 11 Hempas Rademeyer, 10 Schalk Naudé, 9 John Robbie, 8 Jannie Breedt (captain), 7 Andries Fourie, 6 Wahl Bartmann, 5 Lappies Labuschagne, 4 Daan Badenhorst, 3 Piet Kruger, 2 Chris Rogers, 1 Barabas Venter.

No replacements used

By Jan de Koning

@King365ed

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