Bulls v Sharks - team and prediction
CURRIE CUP FINAL: The Bulls will be looking to become the first team in 15 years to win back-to-back titles.
They will also look to be the first team ever to win the title as champions of South Africa’s premier domestic competition twice in the same year – if they can beat off the challenge of a very formidable Sharks outfit.
This – two finals in one year – is an anomaly as a result of the COVID-19-enforced lockdown that saw the 2020 season shifted to December and only being completed in January.
The last team to win back-to-back titles was the Free State Cheetahs – who beat the Blue Bulls 29–25 at Loftus Versfeld in 2005 and then the two teams shared the trophy a year later, after they played to a 28–all draw in Bloemfontein.
The teams with the most consecutive titles are Northern Transvaal (five titles from 1977 to 1981), followed by Western Province for the next five years (1982 to 1986).
This Final is played against the backdrop of a Springbok team defending its Rugby Championship title 11,600 kilometres away, across the Indian Ocean.
However, for neither side, it matters that the country’s best players are on another continent.
They know the prestige that still comes with winning the Currie Cup – even in these times of Trans-Continental international competitions.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White reiterated his earlier statements that the Final of the competition will always be an ‘iconic’ event and should never, ever just be another game.
He is adamant that he will always “put a premium” on winning the tournament.
“You look at the trophy and the history that is in that trophy,” he told @rugby365com, when asked where this match ranks, adding: “The day we get to the Currie Cup Final just being another game, then we lost the perspective of what it is all about.
“It is the oldest sporting trophy in the world and it is part of what is our [South Africans’] DNA.
“It is part of who we are as a country.
“I try to educate these young players that they have a massive change opportunity to become part of history and that legacy of winning the Currie Cup [trophy].”
He pointed to the fact that winning back-to-back trophies doesn’t come around often, because it is so difficult to win the competition.
“It must never be a fait accompli and easy, because then we take away a lot of what is important to the legends of the game that came before us.”
Speaking about the game, the Bulls’ Director of Rugby said he expects the Sharks to provide his team with a stern battle.
“It will be a match that will be on par with Test rugby,” White said.
“The Sharks have been a formidable side throughout their campaign.
“They are well-coached, have talented players and are a driven group.
“So, we expect them to throw everything at us this weekend.”
Sharks coach Sean Everitt also had no doubt his charges are up for the challenge.
“We’ve beaten them once [35-28 in Durban] and there’s no reason why we can’t do it again,” Everitt of his team’s trip to Loftus Versfeld.
“We know that the ball travels far at Loftus so we’re going to have to handle the aerial battle well, but we have three players – Curwin, Sanele and Lionel – who kick really well and will be up for the challenge.
“We know the Bulls have a massive pack of forwards, they are playing well and were sublime in their semi-final. It’s all about momentum, we know what’s coming our way with regards to how they play and the emphasis for us will be about stopping their momentum and stopping their big ball-carriers.”
Apart from the obvious aspects – like set pieces, discipline and defence – the Sharks coach feel it is the team that best handles the intensity and pressure of the occasion that will lift the trophy.
“The Bulls had a sublime start against Western Province [in the semifinal] last Friday,” Everitt told @rugby365com.
“That [fast start by the hosts] will pose a challenge.”
He added that both teams will have a bit of nerves.
“[However,] both teams have played in finals and there are quite a lot of players who played in finals before.
“The team that settles first and get down to the job will have the advantage. That is important in a game of this magnitude.”
The Sharks coach said finals are not a time for ‘experimenting’ and try out some new manoeuvres.
“We have a plan in place,” he said of the sublime skills of flyhalf Lionel Cronje, adding that his kicking skills are well-documented.
“He is an experienced flyhalf that really brought something different to the Sharks.
“Curwin Bosch, at fullback, has a really good boot and a counter-attacking ability.
“Lionel [Cronje] is the general and I am sure he will e able to implement our plan really well.”
2015: Bulls won 17-13, Durban
2016: Sharks won 26-19, Durban
2017: Sharks won 28-20: Pretoria
2017: Sharks 18-5, Durban
2017: Sharks 37-27, Durban
2018: Sharks 26-10, Durban
2019: Sharks 48-40, Pretoria
2020: Sharks 32-29, Durban
2021: Bulls won 26-19, Pretoria (2020-21 Final)
2021: Sharks won 35-28, Durban
Currie Cup finals last 10 years
2011: Lions won 42-16, Johannesburg
2012: WP won 25-18, Durban
2013: Sharks won 33-19, Cape Town
2014: WP won 19-16, Cape Town
2015: Lions won 32-24, Johannesburg
2016: Cheetahs won 36-16, Bloemfontein
2017: WP won 33-21, Durban
2018: Sharks won 17-12, Cape Town
2019: Cheetahs won 31-28, Bloemfontein
2021: Bulls won 26-19, Pretoria (2020-21 Final)
Number of Times in a Final
Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls/Bulls: 33
Western Province: 28
Transvaal/Golden Lions/Lions: 21
Free State: 14
Number of victories in finals
Bulls: 23 (including four draws)
WP: 13 (including two draws)
Lions: Nine (including a draw)
Cheetahs: six (including a draw)
Griqualand West: One
Currie Cup winners
Western Province: 34, four shared – last win 2017
Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls/Bulls: 24, four shared – last win 2021
Transvaal/Gauteng Lions/Golden Lions/Lions: 11, one shared – last win 2015
Natal/Sharks: eight – last win 2018
Orange Free State/Free State/Cheetahs: six, one shared – last win 2019
Griqualand West/Griquas: three – last win 1970
Border/Border Bulldogs: two, both shared – last win 1934
@rugby365com: Bulls by 11 points
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements – from: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Ruan Combrinck/David Coetzer, 23 Stravino Jacobs, 24 Reinhardt Ludwig, 25 Jaco Labuschagne, 26 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 27 David Coetzer, 28 Stedman Gans, 29 Schalk Erasmus.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Werner Kok, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Thaakir Abrahams, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi (captain), 7 Henco Venter, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Le Roux Roets, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona.
Replacements: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Reniel Hugo, 21 Lucky Dlepu, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Anthony Volmink.
Date: Saturday, September 11
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Expected weather: Nice with plenty of sunshine. High of 25°C, with a low of 9°C
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs, Aimee Barrett-Theron
TMO: Stuart Berry