Keo, in his News24 column, reminds the Muppits that Saturday’s Currie Cup winner was identified some time ago.
This is what I wrote in my column on September 27:
‘One team of the top five is going to miss out and it is going to be the Lions. Brave and brilliant in the last seven matches, the Lions will curse their early season experiments that cost them easy points. Lesson learned by Eugene Eloff who will not easily again surrender league points to prove a point to his senior players.
‘The Cheetahs will lose in Pretoria on Saturday but still end top of the table, with the Bulls ending second on points difference from Western Province who’ll take the five league points at Newlands. The Sharks will hammer the Falcons to set up another trip to Bloemfontein and a semi-final exit from the competition.
‘The Sharks, my early season call to win the competition, have mixed and matched so much this season that they cost themselves a home semi-final and with that any chance of winning the competition. The Sharks can’t beat the Cheetahs at the moment. In the other semi-final match-up Western Province will travel to Loftus and this time there won’t be an ambush.
‘I’m tipping the Bulls to win on Saturday, win against Province the next week and then travel to Bloemfontein and set the record straight for last season’s defeat to the Cheetahs in the final.’
Are these words, written more than two weeks ago, to be viewed as some sort of prophecy? Absolutely not. Because I also wrote in May that the Waratahs would win the Super 14 and the Wallabies would triumph in the Tri Nations.
Domestically, though, it was always going to be the Bulls once the Sharks started fading through excessive experiment.
That’s why I could write with such conviction on September 27 as to how the Bulls march to the trophy would unfold. It is now October 11 and nothing in my view has changed. I am still backing the Bulls to go to Bloemfontein and win. Individually, they are a better unit and cohesively they have made as much impact as the Cheetahs in the last month.
Take nothing away from Ollie le Roux and Rassie Erasmus. The former, in his role as captain, has been inspirational. The latter is the most exciting thing to happen to the South African coaching scene. He is talented, innovative and definitely not a one season wonder. South Africa rugby is healthier in the coaching department because of Rassie’s emergence.
But if you want to know why the Cheetahs won’t win on Saturday, then you simply have to look at the tight five composition of the Bulls and the kicking game of Derick Hougaard at flyhalf. The tight five will set up the victory for the visitors and Hougaard’s boot will close the deal.
There won’t be much in the final, but all you need to win it is one point.
Statistics favour the Bulls. They’ve lost just one out of their last 10 against the Cheetahs, while winning the last four in Bloemfontein. The defeat happened to be in last year’s final and it took a miraculous comeback and the bounce of the oval ball to sink them.
The surprise element a year ago was with the Cheetahs, but this weekend there won’t be any such tricks in the party packs handed out during the final. The Bulls know exactly what to expect and they are in no doubt as to what they have to do to succeed. This is a victory that will be fashioned on preparation as much as execution and with Heyneke Meyer back from his overseas travels his input is crucial.
Pote Human has settled as Bulls coach, but Meyer’s technical and analytical contribution will be massive to the Bulls success. He remains the Director of Rugby at the Bulls and the man in charge.
The Bulls have been the form team in South African rugby in the last month. They’ve put 50 past the Sharks in Durban, given the Cheetahs 41 points in Pretoria and scored 45 comfortably against Western Province a week ago. They’re scoring tries with ease and Hougaard is kicking well.
Gary Botha’s captaincy has been outstanding and the tight five are fronting for each challenge. The Cheetahs, this season, have thrived on forward domination against most teams. The exception has been when playing the Bulls. That is why they lost in Bloemfontein earlier in the competition, got hammered in Pretoria and will again come second best on Saturday.
The path to the final was recorded here a fortnight ago. And nothing in the last fortnight convinces me to change the call that has the Bulls to win the Cup again.