The best course of action leading into Saturday’s Currie Cup Final against Western Province at Growthpoint KINGS PARK would be to adopt the attitude of changing nothing.
Continuity is vital and in that respect, only one change to the starting line-up is perfect. So too is the importance of continuing where the team has delivered during the course of the season; but most importantly, is the necessity to not let the nerves of the occasion get to anyone.
Cell C Sharks head coach Robert du Preez admits that it was very disappointing for Sbu Nkosi who is out injured after suffering an elbow injury in the semi-final, but his replacement adds no less to the team.
“We were very sad to lose a guy like Sbu who has had a fantastic season, but we have Odwa who will be playing in his 251st game for this Union, an absolute stalwart and it’s great to have him to full the position,” the coach said.
“It all comes down to this game. The boys have done all the hard work and I’m incredibly proud of them, they’ve been fantastic. Now it’s all about being calm and composed, that’s what’s needed for Saturday.
“Although it’s a final, it’s still just another rugby game, nothing changes outside of the hype, and it’s important that everyone remains cool and calm. We’ve done all the work, the guys just need to go out and express themselves now.”
Keeping the youngsters calm is going to be an important job for the older players.
“The senior, more experienced players have played a massive role with regards to the leadership in the group, they have done a good job in guiding the youngsters,” he explains.
The recipe for success continues. Du Preez admits that, “Patience is going to be very important, both on attack and defence. Patience and game-management are going to be key.”
While the occasion of a final suggests that composure and a conservative outlook are important, the coach won’t be veering away from the game plan that has proved successful enough to get us to host the final. The Cell C Sharks have played a good brand of rugby that combines an exciting, attacking style with physicality upfront.
“Too much is made of ball in hand rugby, I want to play winning rugby. If that means we have to kick the ball a lot, we will do that. This year we’ve played to our strengths which is our pack of forwards. In saying that, the backs have really done well for us with ball in hand, so we can do both.
“We want to build the way we want to play, but that doesn’t happen overnight. We’re not a New Zealand team, we’re a South African team that wants to play a South African brand of rugby.”
What did it take for the Cell C Sharks to turn around after missing the last two knock-out rounds of the Currie Cup?
“Continuity has played a big role, it all started in the Currie Cup last year, we kept the continuity going through Super Rugby and although we lost a few guys to Japan and Europe, I think we’ve managed to maintain continuity. The guys who have stepped in, the youngsters too, have made a massive impact and played a huge role ion terms of the whole squad set-up.”
Captain Ruan Botha leads a side for the first time in a Currie Cup Final, having featured in two before and admits that he is looking forward to the challenge.
“It has been a very enjoyable week, there’s no pressure on us and we want to go out and enjoy the occasion.”
With the experience he has around him, he admits that his job of captaincy is made that much easier bodes well for a final, particularly when jittery nerves can prove fatal.
“We have a lot of senior guys in the squad like Odwa and Keegan who have played in a lot of finals, and Franco Marais and Michael Claassens as well. Keegan helps with the forwards, keeping them composed and Odwa does the same with the backs.
“We have a great mix of young guys playing in their first final as well as seasoned professionals; I think we have a good balance.”