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Sports : Province ‘desperate to get title, so will be dangerous’

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford believes Western Province’s desperation to earn their first Currie Cup title since 2001 will make them particularly dangerous.

SHARKS assistant coach Grant Bashford believes Western Province’s desperation to earn their first Currie Cup title since 2001 will make them particularly dangerous when the teams cross paths in the Currie Cup final in Durban next week .

The 2001 final, which was also contested between Province and the Sharks, marked Province’s last final appearance in the series.

The Sharks booked their home final with a well-deserved 16-12 victory over the Blue Bulls in Durban last Saturday, while Western Province thumped the Cheetahs 31-7 at Newlands .

Bashford relished the challenge of facing the Capetonians and said their burning form this season made them worthy final contenders.

“To be the best, one has to beat the top sides, so this will be a fitting final between the teams that performed well consistently throughout the series,” said Bashford. “They also have a good attitude in the way they play the game, so it is going to be a real spectacle for the fans.”

Given the emphasis in both camps on dominating physically, Bashford predicted the final would match the bruising semifinal last weekend. The Sharks bullied the Bulls at the contact points as their big ball-carriers — flanks Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel and front-rowers Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis — bashed over the advantage line to get on the front foot.

“Western Province are a quality team and they have proved themselves as a physical side, so the final will be no less intense than our clash against the Bulls,” said Bashford.

“They are also quite physical at the breakdowns, so we will prepare for that ... adding to this they haven’t played in the final in a long time, which will add to their desperation to win, so we are under no illusions about the challenge ahead.”

Bashford played down the motivational influence of the Sharks’ 33-21 defeat against Western Province at Newlands in their final league clash and said the result could have been different if they had played their strongest team.

With the Sharks already assured of a home semifinal and the top spot on the log for a home final by the time they took to the field against Province, the coaches opted to omit Alberts and Daniel from the starting team and named back-up Andre Pretorius at flyhalf, with star No10 Patrick Lambie at fullback.

“We know the result of that match could have been different if we had played Willem and Keegan,” said Bashford. “One only has to look at the big contributions those players made in the semifinal to see the value they add to the team.

“So with the guys getting another break this weekend in the run-up to the final, we are hopeful this process will pay off again.

“But that said, Western Province are a strong unit and they have talented players throughout their squad, including the backs and looseforwards, so it is going to be an exciting final.”

Bashford was uncertain yesterday about the seriousness of Springbok wing JP Pietersen’s hamstring injury, which forced him off the field in the 18th minute against the Bulls last Saturday. But with Odwa Ndungane playing good rugby in Pietersen’s absence this season, he was not concerned.

In the Province camp, coach Allister Coetzee opted to use this week’s bye wisely and rest his players, with their only training session this week scheduled for tomorrow.

“It is important for the players to get a break because some of the guys have played every week since July without a bye,” said Coetzee.

“So this week is ideal to give them a break physically and mentally. I think this will make the final worthwhile because both teams will be fresh and hungry to play.” Source BUSINESSDAY

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Tags: Cup   Sharks   ABSA   Province   Western   Currie  

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