The undefeated iCOLLEGE Pumas will be moving into unchartered waters in Oudtshoorn on Sunday when they take on Tafel Lager Griquas in the final of the 2018 SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
The Nelspruit team will not only travel to this Southern Cape venue for the first time, they will also face a team with everything to prove as the men from Kimberley will be determined to go one better than in 2017, when they lost in the inaugural SuperSport Rugby Challenge final to DHL Western Province in Cape Town.
The neutral Bridgton Sports Grounds will be a great leveller this time around. Last year, the home crowd helped DHL WP to a good victory, but neither side can claim any advantage at this venue this year. Instead, it will be about using opportunities, executing game plans and keeping your cool under pressure.
The iCOLLEGE Pumas have been pretty ruthless so far, dispatching all challenges with ease. When stretched by the Vodacom Blue Bulls two weeks ago and the Cell C Sharks last weekend in Nelspruit, the home side found that extra gear championship teams seem to have.
Their default option – going to the forwards to get momentum and go-forward ball – has worked like a charm and for Tafel Lager Griquas’ Peter Engeldow and his coaching staff, the challenge lies in finding the area outside the Pumas comfort zone.
The Peacock Blues are quite capable of creating those areas of uncertainty over 80 minutes. They have the best interplay between forwards and backs in the competition and their passing game saps the energy of bigger packs of forwards. Add some really experienced players to the mix and you will find a team that are good enough to make 2018 a memorable one.
In the end, it could easily turn into a shoot-out between two very reliable goal kickers in the Mpumalangans’ Chris Smith and George Whitehead from the Northern Cape, especially as inclement weather could impact play.
Smith, the iCOLLEGE Pumas’ pivot, has kicked 18 penalty goals and Whitehead had the flags raised 14 times from penalties during the regular season, helping their teams to convert pressure into points. This is perhaps key to their successes, two teams with proven try-scoring abilities with a sharp-shooter to keep their opponents under pressure on the scoreboard.
A new champion will be crowned and after all the drama, excitement, entertainment and intrigue of the last three months, it will be a deserving one as well.
The teams are:
iCOLLEGE Pumas: Devon Williams, Morné Joubert, Hennie Skorbinski (captain), Henko Marais, Ruwellyn Isbell, Christopher Smith, Stefan Ungerer, Willie Engelbrecht, Stefan Willemse, Jeandré Rudolph, Cameron Lindsay, Le Roux Roets, Marné Coetzee, Marko Janse van Rensburg, De-Jay Terblanche. Replacements: Frankie Herne, Simon Westraadt, Hugo Kloppers, Hilton Lobberts, Reynier van Rooyen, Justin van Staden, Trompie Pretorius.
Tafel Lager Griquas: AJ Coertzen, Ederies Arendse, Christopher Bosch, Johnathan Francke, Kyle Steyn, George Whitehead, Christian Meyer, Conway Pretorius, Sias Koen, De Wet Kruger, Pieter van Vuren (captain), Sintu Manjezi, Nicolaas Oosthuizen, Khwezi Mkhafu, Devon Martinus. Replacements: AJ le Roux, Liam Hendricks, Ruan Kramer, FP Pelser, Damian Stevens, Jono van Rensburg, Andre Swarts.
Venue: Bridgton Sports Grounds, Oudtshoorn
Referee: Quinton Immelman
TV: SS1, SS10