Two squads of ultimate underdogs have a date with destiny as Griquas and the Pumas collide in the unlikeliest of Currie Cup finals in Kimberley on Saturday (3 PM kick-off), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
It’s David versus David after the minnows stunningly conquered their respective Goliaths in last weekend’s semi-finals. The Peacock Blues ended the Bulls’ reign with a famous 30-17 victory in Pretoria to book their place in the decider for the first time in 52 years, while the Lowvelders scored twice in the last five minutes to snatch a dramatic 38-35 win over the table-topping Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and reach their first-ever final.
Both unions are fully deserved of their time in the sun for years of persevering the blue-collar way – grinding day-in and day-out, year after year without a single complaint about having the deck stacked against them. Financial constraints, little to no drawing power from a recruiting standpoint, and an annual raid of their top talent, come what may, both Griquas and the Pumas are success stories worth celebrating but only one can lift the coveted Currie Cup.
Extremely similar, down to their never-say-die DNA, they’ve developed a fiercely competitive rivalry over the years. Recent history shows the Pumas pipping it by a whisker with five wins to Griquas’ four with one draw in the last 10 encounters, however, Griquas did the double this season, with indiscipline and ill fortune leading to the Pumas’ downfall.
Pieter Bergh’s men’s 41-20 win in February, the last time the teams clashed in Kimberley, was the only decisive result in the last six showdowns and came after the Pumas conceded a litany of penalties and three yellow cards. The most recent meeting in Nelspruit earlier this month was similar in that the men in pink ended up on the losing side after conceding two yellow cards.
However, it had key differences and was marred in controversy. Both times they were down to 14 men in the final-round fixture, once in each half, they were able to score tries and led 37-21 after 55 minutes before Griquas started their comeback, which they’ve become kings of this season.
They fought back valiantly to trail 44-42, but it was only after a forward pass by the Peacock Blues had gone unnoticed by the officials that they were awarded a penalty, which Fiela Boshoff coolly slotted for the win to cement a third-place finish, which as it turns out, was enough to earn hosting rights for Saturday’s showpiece.
Big match temperament will be vital, but as there’s no way to know which side will handle the heat better, a breakdown of the teams provides an indication as to who’s more likely to prevail. The visitors have a sharp, piercing edge in flair with Thinus de Beer in the form of his life and the skills of 1-23 turning them into a pink tsunami.
Griquas, in turn, are more tactically astute. They should also have ascendency in the set pieces, while they had great success with their driving maul in both league matches against Jimmy Stonehouse’s charges.
Using their respective strengths to dictate the pace of the final will ultimately be the difference between glory and despair. Slowing down the unpredictable Pumas is no easy feat, but Griquas have the pack of forwards, tactical drivers, and home-ground advantage to ensure they put out the expected flamethrower blasts before they turn into a wildfire.
It’s a shame there has to be a loser, but when the smoke clears, it should be Griquas who emerge with a fourth Currie Cup title – the first since 1970 – rather than the Pumas coming away with a maiden crown.