The Sharks are playing the Western Province in this weekend’s Currie Cup final.
Everyone seems to agree that they will win. Here is a list of some predictions:
Home ground advantage
One of the reasons for the Sharks’ position as the favourite is because they are playing at home. Playing at home is a massive advantage in finals matches, regardless of the competition.
(Perhaps we should have a discussion someday about the wisdom of playing a tournament final at a home ground. The NFL (American football) final, the so-called Superbowl, is always played at a neutral venue, whilst the soccer FA Cup final is played at the same venue in London each year.)
Looking at the previous seven Currie Cup finals, the home team was the favourite to win every single time. The home teams went on to win 5 of the last 7 finals, which is a pretty good indication of the value of home ground advantage.
The crucial lineout stat
One other statistic is telling me the Sharks will have an edge over the Western Province: They have a slightly better lineout steal record.
This is a vital statistic because the lineout is by far the most important platform for scoring tries. (Read more about this here.) If a team has a good lineout steal record, it means they are effectively competing in the lineouts.
This is crucial because if you are able to unexpectedly steal a ball in an attacking position you might catch the opposition defence off-guard. Especially with the No 10 standing way back to receive the ball for a kick. And even if you are unsuccessful with the steal, you most likely would have disrupted clean ball for the opposition. And, as we know, there are a lot of advantages that come from that.
Super rugby family at the heart of the final
On a side note, I wonder how many people realise that the final will involve FOUR members of the same family: Father Robert du Preez (Sharks coach), son Robert du Preez (Western Province No 10), son Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks No 7) and son Dan du Preez (Sharks No 8). The father feels no conflict of interest and is on record saying that he’s “had enough” of Robert Jr, surely a bit tongue in cheek.
But what a wonderful mix of torn allegiances and all-around pride!
I encourage all NZ and Australian rugby fans to record the match and watch it on Sunday. It should showcase South African rugby the way we know it from way back: passionate and relentless.
Author: Willem Van Rensburg
I was raised among Springboks, then matured among Kiwis, and now live among Wallabies. What’s next? I have never been good at playing this game, but what a game! Show me any other team sport that has equal room for the big, small, quick, slow, smart, not so smart. And when they work in unison it is like watching a symphony.