Golden Lions aiming at the Absa Currie Cup title

THE MTN Golden Lions will be aiming for their first outright Absa Currie Cup Final victory on home soil since 1950 when they host The Sharks at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg tomorrow at 5.30pm

It seems amazing, but the last time the Golden Lions won an Absa Currie Cup Final at their home ground, was 61 years ago, when they were still called Transvaal and they beat Western Province by 22-11.

Since then the Johannesburg-based union have won finals in Wellington (beat Boland by 11-9 in 1952), Springs (beat the Valke by 25-19), Durban (beat The Sharks by 21-15 in 1993 and by 32-9 in 1999) and Bloemfontein (beat Free State by 56-33 in 1994).

In 1971 they drew with northern neighbours, the Blue Bulls, at Ellis Park (14-14), while the Golden Lions have lost home finals in 1987 (24-18 to the Blue Bulls), 1992 (14-13 to The Sharks), 1996 (33-15 to The Sharks) and 2002 (31-7 to the Blue Bulls).

Compared to the MTN Golden Lions’ recent performances in the Absa Currie Cup, The Sharks have a better record when it comes to lifting the trophy. In 2008 and 2010 they won the Final, on both occasions in Durban (beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls by 14-9 in 2008 and beat DHL WP by 30-10 last year).

There is one interesting similarity with the last time the team from KwaZulu-Natal managed to win back-to-back titles, in the mid-1990s.

In 1995, The Sharks beat DHL WP in the Final at Mr Price Kings Park (25-17) and the next year, in 1996, they travelled up to Johannesburg where they beat the MTN Golden Lions by 33-15.

Interestingly enough, in four previous Absa Currie Cup Finals between these two sides, the hosts have lost every single time.

They said it:

John Mitchell (coach of the MTN Golden Lions): “The set piece accuracy and your ability to create pressure in that area are crucial. The game hasn’t changed at all and you had an example of that over the weekend in the World Cup final. The Sharks are a very good side and very good forward pack with a heap of test players.

“But we are just focusing on our own performance and clearly we have total confidence in our forward pack and team. Right at this moment you don’t change a lot. All our work is done, so we we’ve just focused on being more accurate and bringing some of the attitude that is important at this time of the year.”

Keegan Daniel (captain of The Sharks): “A lot of us have played in finals while many Lions players have not, but then you could reverse that and say they have been together all year and we’ve had to bring in new guys.

“I don’t think that will make too much difference. We know what it is like to play in a final not having won it for so long and the hunger that we had that day and they will bring the same hunger, I’m sure. For us, it’s about physically fronting up on the day, no matter who plays. You can’t live on reputation because that’s going to get you nowhere, you have to play as a team.”

Head to Head: MTN Golden Lions v The Sharks (since 2005) 16/07/2005: MTN Golden Lions 16 The Sharks 22 – Durban
23/06/2006: MTN Golden Lions 22 The Sharks 33 – Durban
19/08/2006: MTN Golden Lions 22 The Sharks 21 – Johannesburg
30/06/2007: MTN Golden Lions 14 The Sharks 7 – Johannesburg
01/09/2007: MTN Golden Lions 3 The Sharks 21 – Durban
13/10/2007: MTN Golden Lions 19 The Sharks 12 – Durban
26/07/2008: MTN Golden Lions 11 The Sharks 16 – Durban
27/09/2008: MTN Golden Lions 20 The Sharks 34 – Johannesburg
11/10/2008: MTN Golden Lions 14 The Sharks 29 – Durban
15/08/2009: MTN Golden Lions 19 The Sharks 30 – Johannesburg
03/10/2009: MTN Golden Lions 17 The Sharks 19 – Durban
07/08/2010: MTN Golden Lions 19 The Sharks 48 – Durban
25/09/2010: MTN Golden Lions 22 The Sharks 20 – Johannesburg
27/08/2011: MTN Golden Lions 28 The Sharks 19 – Johannesburg
15/10/2011: MTN Golden Lions 9 The Sharks 53 – Durban

Played 15 – MTN Golden Lions won 5 – The Sharks won 10 – Drawn 0

Head to Head in Absa Currie Cup Finals
1992: MTN Golden Lions 13 The Sharks 14 – Johannesburg
1993: MTN Golden Lions 21 The Sharks 15 – Durban
1996: MTN Golden Lions 15 The Sharks 33 – Johannesburg
1999: MTN Golden Lions 32 The Sharks 9 – Durban

Played 4 – MTN Golden Lions won 2 – The Sharks won 2 – Drawn 0

Teams:

The MTN Golden Lions have named an unchanged match 22 from the team that beat DHL Western Province in their semi-final last week. The only possible change is on the bench, where Jacobie Adriaanse has been bracketed with JC Janse van Rensburg as reserve prop.

The Sharks’ starting 15 is also unchanged from last weekend, when they beat the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in the first semi-final. On the bench, Alistair Hargreaves comes in for veteran loose forward Jacques Botes.

MTN Golden Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ van der Linde. Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse/JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Warren Whiteley, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan Des Fountain, 22 James Kamana.

The Sharks: 15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Marius Joubert, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Jean Deysel, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.-Sarugby.net

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