Much has been said about supposed “gulf in class” between the respective Sharks and Western Province teams named to do battle in Saturday’s Currie Cup Final, with the Sharks described in various glowing terms, including “Bok-laden”. I’m not completely sure I buy that, thought.
If we run the rule over the respective line-ups, we see that the Sharks boast just three players in their match 22 that started for the Springboks against the All Blacks three weeks ago, in Beast Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts, while a further two, Marcell Coetzee and Pat Lambie, did bench duty that day. Province can claim similar numbers, with Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Bryan Habana all current Bok starters, and Juan de Jongh used as a replacement against the All Blacks. While it is true that the Sharks can claim more members of their team that have played for the Boks at some stage in their career, there are still 10 players in the match 22 with no international experience at all, a far higher number than we’re used to seeing when the team is at “full strength”.
Where I do feel the Sharks have the edge, though, is in finals experience, with many of the team having played in at least one, and some in two, three or four of the team’s most recent finals. For the home side, only three players, Kyle Cooper. Jandre Marais and Cobus Reinach, will be playing in their first-ever major final, with the rest of the team having the battle scars and war stories from similar games in the past on which to draw. Jannie du Plessis is the most experienced in the squad when it comes to the crunch games, having played in eight previous finals and won six of those.
I’ve compiled some statistics detailing previous finals appearances for the Sharks match 22 below:
1) Beast Mtawarira. 3 Currie Cup Finals, 2 Super Rugby Finals. 2 Final wins
2) Craig Burden. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final. 1 Final win
3) Jannie du Plessis. 6 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 1 World Cup Final, 6 Final wins
4) Steven Sykes. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 2 Final wins
5) Anton Bresler. 1 Currie Cup Final, 1 Super Rugby Final. 1 Final win
6) Marcell Coetzee. 1 Currie Cup Final, 1 Super Rugby Final. 0 Final wins
7) Willem Alberts. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 1 Final win
8) Keegan Daniel. 3 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 2 Final wins
9) Cobus Reinach. No previous finals
10) Pat Lambie. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 1 Final win
11) Lwazi Mvovo. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 1 Final win
12) Tim Whitehead. 1 Super Rugby Final, 0 Final wins
13) Paul Jordaan. 1 Super Rugby Final, 0 Final wins
14) JP Pietersen. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 2 Super Rugby Finals, 1 World Cup Final, 2 Final wins
15) Louis Ludik. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 1 Final win
16) Kyle Cooper. No previous finals.
17) Wiehahn Herbst. 1 Super Rugby Final, 0 Final wins
18) Jandre Marais. No previous finals.
19) Jean Deysel. 2 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 1 Final win
20) Charl McLeod. 1 Currie Cup Final. 1 Super Rugby Final. 1 Final win
21) Meyer Bosman. 3 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 3 Final wins
22) Odwa Ndungane. 3 Currie Cup Finals, 1 Super Rugby Final, 2 Final wins
Province, on the other hand, have fewer players who have “been there and done that” before, with none of the current squad having ever won a final with their current team. Of their lineup, De Kock Steenkamp, Deon Fourie, Duane Vermeulen, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon, Deon Carstens and Brok Harris have played in at least one final, with only Habana (Bulls 07, Springboks 07) , Vermeulen (Cheetahs 07) and Carstens (Sharks 08) able to boast winners’ medals of any sort.Tweet