It’s mate against mate and, to borrow from the Aussies, State against State, when Wilco Louw and Thomas du Toit square up in Saturday’s Currie Cup final.
Both are schooled in the Western Cape and both have enjoyed a rivalry that dates to their schools days. Equally they’ve enjoyed a close friendship.
Of all the one-on-one clashes this is likely to be the most intense when the two front rankers go at each other. Du Toit has described it as the biggest match of his life. Louw hasn’t been quite as vocal but his impressive season and international debut against the All Blacks at Newlands indicates he is a player who does his talking on the field.
Statistical Analysis: Du Toit vs Louw
The pair have spent roughly the same amount of time on the pitch, underlining the equally key roles they have played in the run to the final. Statistical returns are meaningless for these two big boys of the front row. It’s the nuances that determine each one’s effectiveness and all the frontrow expert opinion has been that South African rugby is blessed with two gems.
Louw, as a tighthead, has one primary function – and that is to scrum. This season he has been destructive in giving WP the edge at scrum time. He is not a player who dazzles in general play but he has proven that the old adage is true that when your tighthead is immovable then your team tends to win more than they lose. Du Toit, playing at loosehead, is a more explosive athlete in general play and his 66 ball carries are nearly double Louw’s tally. Du Toit has also shown his creativity in offloading and his versatility in making eight turnovers, but it’s in the brutal scrum confrontation that Du Toit’s impact will be measured.
Both players are busy on defence and disciplined. They have missed just the one in 10 tackles.
The two frontrowers are also among the more disciplined in the scrum engage and average less than a penalty a game.
Centre of Attraction
Sharks outside centre Am has been dominant in the Sharks campaign and was equally influential in Super Rugby. Many rate him as the form outside centre in South African rugby and he is expected to make the Springbok squad for the end of year tour. His all-round game is flattering and his contribution (nine line breaks and eight turnovers) shows the balance to his game when it comes to attack and defence.
The 7s wizard has scored seven tries in the Currie Cup. He is arguably the best finisher in the competition. His pace and step are among the best in the South African domestic game.
Curwin Bosch, just 20 years-old, is a proven match winner. He is an outstanding goalkicker and has the X-factor. He will alternate between 10 and 15 in the final.
The Sharks make only one change, with Odwa Ndungane replacing injured Sibusiso Nkosi at left wing.
Western Province coach John Dobson made five changes to the semi-final run on XV. Damien Willemse starts at fullback, Dillyn Leyds moves to the right wing and Ruhan Nel shifts to the midfield as cover for injured EW Viljoen. Sikhumbuzo Notshe replaces the concussed Jaco Coetzee among the loose-forwards and Kobus van Dyk makes way for Cobus Wiese.
Head to head history
Saturday will be the eighth Currie Cup final meeting between The Sharks and Province, dating back to 1984. Province have won four and the Sharks three.
Saturday’s final kicks off at 16:00 at Kings Park.