Some 31 years ago the Durbanites rolled into Pretoria for Currie Cup weekend. They came in their Toyota Corollas, their VW Golfs, Opel Monzas and Mazda 323s and painted the city back and white for the weekend. “We’re black, we’re white, we’re dynamite,” they sang as they drank in the streets around Loftus Versfeld on the day of the final.
The locals looked at them, and tolerated them. After all, these Engelsmanne were soon going to be heading back to Durbs with their tails between their legs and their banana trees stuck where the sun don’t shine.
Problem is, a couple of hours later and it was the souties who were still celebrating, a first-ever Currie Cup trophy after a stunning 18-12 win, in which Joel Stransky knocked over a penalty from the halfway line to rub salt into the woulds. “It took them 100 years to win the Currie Cup. It will take them another 100 to win it again,” said Naas Botha.
But two years later Natal won it again, this time at Ellis Park, beating Transvaal and they’ve since gone on to win five more times, in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2008 and 2010. Now they’ve come full circle and are back at Loftus for he final on Saturday. This time there won’t be fans at Loftus due to the ongoing Coronavirus lockdown and restrictions, but the Bulls are again favourites, at 4-10 with GG Gaming and the Sharks at 5-2.
Jake White has gone about his business in Pretoria bringing in World Cup winners and experience to go with some local-bred young muscle. With Duane Vermeulen at No8 and Morne Steyn at No10 there’s a wealth of international experience in a key area of the field for the Bulls and they are deserved favourites.
The Sharks were the underdogs against Western Province at Newlands last week but came through, winning a terribly forgettable game 19-9. But they arrive in Pretoria pretty much like the 1990 team was – written off by the majority.
The Currie Cup has lost some of its shine over the years with the advent of Super Rugby, but for many players it will still be the most important piece of silverware they’ll play for.
Playing in the heat, at altitude, at the end of January is an unfamiliar and uncomfortable experience, which is why the games tend to be nervy and scrappy, with a lot of referee’s whistle. However, the Bulls have the grunt and the power up front, and then the pace out wide to probably edge this one. The boots of Steyn and Curwin Bosch will be key. I’m going for the Bulls to win this one, and 22-15 would be my score.