Preview: Golden Lions v Western Province

Date published: October 23 2015

This year's Currie Cup competition reaches its climax in Johannesburg on Saturday when the Golden Lions take on the defending champions, Western Province, in the tournament's final.

Western Province face a daunting challenge if they want to retain their title. Coached by former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann, the Golden Lions have so far this season swept aside every challenge in front of them.

They were unbeaten in their 10 league fixtures, and last weekend managed to hold off a stirring challenge from the Free State Cheetahs in their semi-final.

If they manage to win the cup the Lions will become the first team since the Sharks in 1996 to win the Currie Cup without suffering a single defeat on their way to the title.

Lions supporters will be hoping that their team will be able to maintain their impressive form and in doing so, turn the tables on Province, who beat them in a tense final last year in Cape Town.

The Johannesburg-based outfit have momentum and home ground advantage in their favour. However, WP will point to their undoubted cup-winning pedigree.

On Saturday the Capetonians will be making their fourth consecutive Currie Cup Final appearance. Furthermore, WP also have history on their side as they are the most successful team in the tournament's history.

The men from the Cape have won the coveted gold cup a record 33 times and their most recent success was at home last year against the Lions. 

The Lions, meanwhile, are ranked third on the list of competition winners. They won the trophy ten times and their most recent success was in 2011 when they lifted the cup after beating the Sharks in Johannesburg.

Ackermann knows that his side's unbeaten record and playing in front of their home crowd will put extra pressure on his charges but feels that they will be successful if they stick to what they have done in their previous matches.

"The players know you only get the one opportunity and if you make a mistake it can cost you points or even the match so there is that added pressure," he said.

"The 22 guys need to stay in the moment and focus on the job they need to do and don’t do something different.

"The players know they have this opportunity and they must enjoy it. To be in the final is a privilege and we are thankful to the supporters."

WP suffered a 62-32 defeat to the Lions when these sides met in the league earlier this year. That match was also played in Johannesburg and WP scrum-half Nic Groom knows it will take a special effort to beat them in their backyard.

“The Lions have sort of had the same side without many players coming or going for the last three years now and they play a slick running and passing game…I think they are leading the way in a lot of respects there," he said.

“They’re also well motivated and super fired up and (are) almost double the intensity when they play in Johannesburg, so that’s a big challenge for us and something we didn’t deal with the last time we went there (to Ellis Park).

“They are a passionate group who take a lot of pride from playing at home where they deserve to be playing at the moment.

“They have been the best team in the competition thus far, but at this stage it’s an uncontrollable, really, where we play.”

Despite that humiliating loss to the Lions in their previous match, Groom believes WP’s resilience will count for something come the weekend.

“I don’t think we would be here if we couldn’t,” he added.

"I think our turnaround in the semi-final away from home (last week), after losing by 30 points two weeks before, showed this group’s resilience.

“Nothing great ever happens in ideal circumstances, so we will take a lot of heart from that.

“To become successful you need to learn from every single outing… It was a horror game for us where nothing went right for us and the only thing we took from it was lessons – plenty of lessons!”

Previous results:

October 2: Golden Lions won 62-32 in Johannesburg
October 25 2014 (final): Western Province won 19-16 in Cape Town

Ones to watch:

For Western Province: After flying underneath the radar for most WP's campaign, WP full-back Cheslin Kolbe burst into the limelight with a brilliant display in WP's semi-final against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria last weekend. Kolbe scored a superb try and also set up the Jano Vermaak for the matchwinning score. His ability to beat defenders in one-on-one situations makes him difficult to defend against and if he finds himself in space, he could prove a handful for the Lions defence.

For Golden Lions: While the Lions possess plenty of attacking threats, especially amongst their backs, rookie lock Lourens Erasmus is a player who has risen to prominence in recent weeks due to his ability with ball in hand. Erasmus made his Currie Cup debut earlier this year but has already scored some spectacular tries. He fits in perfectly with the Lions' free-flowing style and it will be interesting to see if he makes an impact in such a high profile fixture.

Head-to-head: The battle between the two fly-halves will have a huge bearing on this game's outcome. Lions pivot Marnitz Boshoff is renowned for his goal-kicking but the jury's still out on his big match temperament after he failed with a last-minute penalty which would have given his side a draw in last year's final and taken that match into extra time. That experience should be enough motivation but he faces a tough opponent in Robert du Preez who will present a formidable challene. Du Preez has made WP's number 10 jersey his own with several impressive performances. His kicking – out of hand and from the tee – has been solid but he has also shown that he can play expansively and is solid on defence. He came of second best to the more experienced Boshoff in their previous battle and will be determined to stake his claim for the Stomers side in 2016 with a commanding performance in such a high pressure match.

Prediction: The Golden Lions have been the form team this year and playing in their own backyard will provide them with extra motivation. Lions to win by eight points!

The teams:

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Malcom Marx, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Fabian Booysen,19 Steph de Witt, 20 Jaco van der Walt, 21 Stokkies Hanekom, 22 Sampie Mastriet.

Western Province: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Chris van Zyl, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Huw Jones.

Date: Saturday, October 24
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 13:45 local (11:45 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Stuart Berry, Jason Jaftha
TMO: Marius Jonker