Currie Cup Final 2017 Preview WINNING WAY IS THE ONLY WAY FOR THE SHARKS.

As a player Robert du Preez was ultra-competitve, as a coach he is possibly more so, and on the eve of the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province, the 54-year-old refreshingly cut through the hype and hot air that will always accompany a major sporting event.

How are the Sharks are going to play? Have they anything special up their sleeves for a Province team that caught them off guard three weeks ago in Durban? Do the Sharks kick too much (they kicked more than any other team in three months of pool play)?

The taciturn coach mustered a wry grin before explaining how it will be for the Sharks: “Look too much is made of ball-in-hand rugby (or any particular brand). We want to play winning rugby. If that means we have to kick the ball a lot, we will do that.

“This year we have played to our strengths, which is our pack of forwards. Having said that, our backs have on many occasions done well for us with ball in hand. So we can do both, and it comes down to what the situation requires,” Du Preez said forthrightly.

In short, Du Preez does not want to have a pigeon-holed style of play.

“We want to build a way of playing that suits the Sharks and it does not happen overnight.

“We are not a New Zealand rugby team, we are a South African team, and we want to play a South African brand of rugby.”

Du Preez’s Sharks have led the Currie Cup from the front this season, evolving their way of playing, and it has come down to the same key elements. Uncompromising forward play and winning the gain line battle to provide the backs with opportunities to play what is in front of them — be that flyhalf Curwin Bosch spreading the ball or probing for territory with the boot.

And when without the ball, the Sharks have been brutal on defence.

How the Sharks play is not rocket science and if Province are to stop them at Kings Park, they know their forwards are going to have to trade blows in the frontline trenches. There will be no short cuts.

The Capetonians understand this full well from what transpired in the 80s minutes of their recent win in Durban. That match summed up the Sharks. For 30 minutes, when the Sharks were at full throttle, they steamrolled the opposition.

After the match, Province coach John Dobson admitted that he thought his side were goners given how the Sharks dominated that half an hour. But then the Sharks took their foot off the pedal. Suddenly the opposition could play, and they certainly did, spearheaded by flyhalf Robert du Preez jnr, who brilliantly made the most of the unexpected front-foot ball coming his way.

But the Sharks will not be as charitable in a final. Once bitten twice shy. They have come a long way this season to throw it away now.

That WP win was possibly the best thing that could have happened to the Sharks because it laid bare their strengths and weaknesses, and empathised the ruthlessness and efficiency that is required to be a champion team.

“Three months of hard work comes down to one game. There is nothing more we can do now,” Du Preez said philosophically. “We could not have worked harder than we have. I am incredibly proud of the players. Now it is about being calm and composed, and expressing ourselves as we have done all season.”

*** Du Preez has made one change to his squad for the final. Injured wing Sbu Nkosi is replaced by Odwa Ndungane and the latter’s place on the bench is taken by Rhyno Smith.

Sharks – 15 Garth April, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.


Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Tristan Blewett, 23 Rhyno Smith.

Curwin Bosch flyhalf for the Sharks -Pic Steve Haag

Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Dan Kriel.

Kick-off: 4pm

Referee: Jaco Peyper

Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds & AJ Jacobs

TMO: Marius Jonker

BY Mike Greenaway

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Bismarck du Plessis’s final Sharks interview

There was no masking the emotion on Bismarck du Plessis’s face as he gave possibly his last ever interview in Sharks colours ahead of his Sharks career finale against the Stormers at Kings Park on Saturday. Just how much the Sharks mean to him was etched into every contour of his battle-scarred features.

“I read a scripture recently, which said ‘teach me to number my days’, and so yes, it’s a very emotional week,” the 31-year-old said. “But It’s hopefully not my last time that I’ll be playing here … you never know … but for me it’s been a great journey. I arrived here when I was the seventh best hooker in the Free State, when I got the opportunity from CEO Brian van Zyl van Zyl and coach Kevin Putt. I’m very grateful to them for sticking their heads out and giving me that opportunity.”

Ten years on he and his brother Jannie are having to prise themselves away from a city and a franchise that has become synonymous with the battling boets from Bethlehem
“Some of the most special memories have been just just to wake up every day in Durban, open the curtains and see the beautiful ocean. And also just to experience the amazing culture we have at the Sharks, it’s been the most special thing in my life to be able to wake up and play for the Sharks,” he said.
“But I don’t want any accolades, from anyone, that is not why I play the game,” the hooker said. “I would have been happy to play 20 games for Bethlehem dorp at the time, and I never thought I’d have this privilege to play for the Sharks.”

He says the Sharks have been his dream team for as long as he can remember.

“On holiday here as a five, six-year-old boy, I remember Jannie and I walking along Windermere Road to go watch the Club Champs, and watching great players like Springbok legend Danie Gerber and Domkrag (Springbok prop Frans Erasmus), Pote Human and all those great players who dominated the club scene at the time. I remember sitting at the top of the stands and wondering if I’d ever have the opportunity to play rugby. As I say, I don’t play for any accolades, I just play for my teammates and the respect I have for the guys who play with me.”
Two players have been especially instrumental in Bismarck’s evolvement into the best hooker in the world going into the September Rugby World Cup.

“When I arrived at the Sharks, John Smit was absolutely influential in everything I did. The other guy who gave me the best of everything and was like a father to me, was Johan Ackermann, the current Lions coach and former Sharks and Springbok lock – just the way he conducted himself on and off the field even with the ups and downs he went through.”
But, as he says, now his days in Durban are numbered, with French club Montpellier rumoured to be the recipients of some of the hottest property in the game.

“For me, it was always about backing the process and knowing where I stood, and that’s what’s sad about this chapter of my life. But like I said, John has always been great to me. When he was a player the way he helped me to develop my skills, he allowed me to become better than I was when I arrived here.
“For me it’s a very sad day to be leaving the Sharks, I guess I never thought this day would arrive. I’m a Sharks boy through and through, I love the Sharks with all my heart and I don’t want to play for any other side in the world.”

There have been Currie Cup title wins and Super Rugby finals, but once more Du Plessis insists that it is not about the trophies.

“In almost every year I’ve been here we’ve been involved in play-off matches, but I’m just happy with the group of players that I have been able to play with. A lot of people might measure themselves on the amount of trophies they’ve won, but I measure myself on the type of person I am as I leave here. I’m a much happier person. I remember writing my last exams, and packing up all by myself in my varsity room, stuffing it all into this little Volkswagen beetle I had and driving about 12 hours from Bloemfontein to Durban in a car that could only go about 80kmh and I had to fill up about six times because it only had a small petrol tank. So as I leave, and if I come back, I think I do so as a better person.”
Naturally it has been all the better to have his brother for most of the journey.

“You know how special it is or us, it was always the plan for Jannie and I to play rugby together,” Bismarck says. “I thought even if we could have just played together for Bethlehem dorp that would have been okay, so to play here at the Sharks with him has been so special. Other players have been like brothers to me too.The Beast, Jannie and I must have played 150 games together; JP Pietersen – who got married over the weekend – I can’t remember a game that I didn’t play with him. Then there’s Odwa Ndungane, and Ryan Kankowski, who has been my roommate from 2005. We went through a lot together, it’s really special and that’s why we’re such a close-knit group. We’re all like brothers.”
Du Plessis will leave the Kings Park pitch with tears in his eyes on Saturday night, no question about it.

“I’m the biggest Sharks fan and always will be, it’s about being the best and staying at the top of your game. It’s always about those succession plans when somebody leaves, and when someone comes in wondering if he will he able to do the job. But I think the Sharks are in a great space, at the beginning we didn’t even have a gym, and I don’t think there is any better culture or place to play rugby.

“For me, I am a passionate passionate Shark, I don’t know where I will be heading exactly. I’m a very principle-based guy and I won’t go anywhere else (in South Africa). If ever I get the opportunity again to come back, and the coaching staff think I can add value I will most likely take them up on that offer. I will miss this place with everything I have.”

by Mike Greenaway

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