x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A battle of the ages in Currie Cup

The anticipated exodus from Western Province will leave behind a different landscape, meaning a wealth of opportunity for South Africa's youth.

Schalk Burger has spent most of this week fielding questions over whether tomorrow's Currie Cup final against the Natal Sharks will be his last game for Western Province.

By the time the next one comes around, the top players in South Africa's leading club competition will have made their plans for life after the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

For many, their next contract will represent the chance of a last big pay day before retirement.

There is no doubt overtures will be made to the likes of Burger, the Western Province flanker and captain, and his Springboks colleagues, from the affluent elite in Europe.

The anticipated exodus will leave behind a different landscape, meaning a wealth of opportunity for South Africa's youth.

Burger is likely to have a close-up view of the future tomorrow, when he trains his sights on Patrick Lambie, the Sharks fly-half.

Lambie celebrated his 20th birthday the day after the Sharks sealed their place in the final with a 16-12 win over the Blue Bulls.

When he runs out in front of 50,000 home fans at the Absa Stadium in Durban, he will be the youngest fly-half to play in a Currie Cup final since Derick Hougaard piloted the Bulls in the 2002 version.

He will be giving away 12 years of experience to his opposite number, Willem de Waal.

Lambie has already caught the eye to the extent that he was offered an invitation into the Springboks training squad.

Last week he successfully navigated the challenge of a fierce Bulls pack led by Bakkies Botha, and all he has to do now is deal with Burger and his teammates.

"He has matured a lot throughout the season," John Plumtree, the Sharks coach, was quoted as saying.

"It was necessary for him to step up and do a job in the semi-final. And he did that. Now he has to do it again.

"We have experienced players both sides of Patrick. Andries Strauss [the inside-centre] is excellent as far as leadership is concerned and Charl McLeod [the scrum-half] is in good form.

"I'm not worried about Patrick."

While the Sharks No 10 may represent the future, the Province backline is brimming with current Springboks talent, with Bryan Habana, Juan de Jonghe and Gio Aplon, the flying backs, all starting tomorrow.

"The unchanged squad makes for continuity in the ranks, and it's a matter of building on the team's momentum," Allister Coetzee, the Province coach, was quoted as saying.

"It's great that we are able to select an unchanged side and it will do the players' confidence a world of good."

 

pradley@thenational.ae