Try time: Lukhanyo Am heads for the line to score the Sharks’ first try against the Blue Bulls. Picture: GERHARD DURAAN/ BACKPAGEPIX
Try time: Lukhanyo Am heads for the line to score the Sharks’ first try against the Blue Bulls. Picture: GERHARD DURAAN/ BACKPAGEPIX

Western Province will go into Saturday’s Currie Cup final against the Sharks with a few changes after lock JD Schickerling and centre EW Viljoen were injured in the semifinal win over the Golden Lions.

Viljoen limped off in the 35th minute of their 19-5 win at Newlands on Saturday with a suspected torn hamstring, while Schickerling was carried off in the 50th minute with his ankle heavily strapped.

"It doesn’t look good for EW in particular and he’ll definitely be out‚" Province coach John Dobson confirmed.

WP were good value for their win over the Lions and it came on the back of a superb forward effort and great defence.

For all their talk of playing ball-in-hand rugby‚ WP suffocated the Lions through solid defence and edging the set phases. They made 163 tackles and picked off two crucial Lions lineouts in a match that turned on fine margins.

Province will need both those areas to function well in the final against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

"The thing with a team like the Lions is that if you get in front, you know that they won’t test you too much with the boot‚" Dobson said.

"Once we got ahead and they started to chase‚ we were much more comfortable. They then started to play more rugby‚ which made it slightly easier to defend," he said.

WP were heavily penalised in the match‚ conceding 12 penalties and an early yellow card when Schickerling was binned for collapsing a maul.

At one stage in the second half, they conceded three penalties in 90 seconds.

WP beat the Sharks 31-20 at King’s Park in Durban in the final round-robin match of the campaign‚ but Dobson believes they will face a hungrier Sharks in Saturday’s final.

"We are not reading too much into our last result against the Sharks because mentally, they didn’t need to win that game. It is a nice feeling to play them again because we know how to attack against their defensive system that won’t change. But the Sharks will be far more desperate this time."

Sharks coach Robert du Preez did not allow himself a moment to wax lyrical about his team’s 37-27 semifinal win over the Blue Bulls and wants to see his team rise to the occasion in the final as they have a score to
settle with WP.

Five years ago‚ an unfancied WP side coached by Allister Coetzee burgled an unexpected 25-18 Currie Cup final win‚ even though the Sharks more than returned the favour at Newlands the following year. That 33-19 win remains the last time the Sharks annexed the Currie Cup.

"I don’t think we’ve hit our straps yet and I think we’ll put that together next week," Du Preez said. "However‚ we need to give credit to the Bulls‚ I thought they played very well.

"In terms of players‚ we’re not going to change anything and we need to sort out our exits. They weren’t great and we couldn’t get any momentum in the second half. We gave away too many penalties and we’ll have to be vigilant in that regard‚" Du Preez said.

The second half was a cause for concern for Du Preez‚ especially the fact that they were outscored by the Bulls.

However‚ the Sharks had put in the hard yards in the first half with four tries from Lukhanyo Am‚ Kobus van Wyk‚ Louis Schreuder and Ruan Botha giving them an advantage they did not relinquish. Curwin Bosch embellished his reputation as a big-match player, scoring 17 points with the boot.

A final between the Sharks and Western Province is a fitting finale to what has been a topsy-turvy tournament. The Sharks were the only side to display consistency and their 10-match unbeaten run in the round-robin stage gave them the inside lane to the big game.

Du Preez said they were happy to get the home final and to make the most of home advantage. However‚ there was the sad part of Springbok prospect S’bu Nkosi crying off with a dislocated elbow.

"A home final means everything because that’s what you play for," said Du Preez.

"You want to play in front of your fans in a final at home. It’s going to be a new chapter for a whole bunch of guys, but a final is a final.

"We haven’t won anything yet and we’ve got nothing to lose. We’re really going to play to win‚" he said.

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