By Brendon Atwell
Brendon’s BlogSpot: http://www.inyourspace.co.za/
The 2018 edition of the Currie Cup culminates with the final on 27 October with old coastal rivals, Western Province and the Sharks, fighting it out at Newlands in Cape Town for the ultimate domestic prize.
With WP hosting the final for the first time since 2014, when they narrowly beat the Lions 19-16, the men in blue and white stripes will be looking to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2000/2001 when they beat the Sharks on both occasions, first in Durban and then at the self-same Newlands venue.
But over the last few season, home ground advantage in the final has by no means meant an easy path to title glory! Over the last six years, the visiting team has clinched the title 50% of the time.
In 2012, WP traveled to Durban, clinching the Currie Cup with a 25-18 victory over the Sharks with the Durbanites turning the tables the following year on WP at Newlands with a fine 33-19 demolition.
Last year saw WP again triumph at Kings Park, winning 33-21 while Province, the Lions and the Cheetahs all winning at home in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively.
On Saturday, the Sharks and Western Province will be contesting their 9th final since 1984 and it is the home side that has boasting rights, having claimed five wins but, and this is the big but – only two of those five title wins have come at Newlands.
Province triumphed over the Sharks, then Natal, at Newlands in 1984 when they beat the then Division 1 winners 19-9. The only other victory at Newlands came in 2001 when Corne Krige’s men came out on top 29-24.
The other three victories came in 2000 (25-15), 2012 (25-18) and last year (33-21) but all those victories were at Kings Park.
The Sharks’ three Currie Cup final victories over Province were in 1995 (25-17), 2010 (30-10) and 2013 (33-19) with the 2013 effort having been at in Cape Town.
When the sides met earlier in the season, it was at Newlands with Province running out 50-28 winners despite a Sharks fightback.
The Sharks scored an early try but Province took control of the first half, racing into a 31-7 lead before two late tries from the visitors saw the teams head into the changerooms with Province leading 31-21. The Sharks came within 3 points in the second stanza before the home side killed off the contest with three more tries to run out convincing victors.
The Sharks ran out comfortable 33-24 winners over the Lions in the semi final at Kings Park while Province needed extra time to down the Bulls at Newlands this past weekend.
Province, who had demolished the Bulls the previous week in a match that was called off at half time, were on the cusp of going out when the Bulls scored a try in the right hand corner to level matters at 32-32 after the hooter had sounded but the conversion attempt from flyhalf Manie Libbok sailed wide and Province survived.
Wing SP Marais, who had a perfect record with the boot all night, missed a penalty attempt in the first half of extra time but made no mistake with another effort in the second period and Province hung on to win 35-32 and set up the 2018 final against the Sharks at Newlands.
Province though will know that playing at Newlands in the final – against the Sharks – will mean nothing and that they will need to go against historic data to retain the title and clinch their 31st Currie Cup title since their first crown in 1892.
The Sharks on the other hand will be looking to add to the seven titles they have under the belt since their first triumph in 1990.
Kick-off for the 2018 showpiece will be at 16h00.