Catfight in the City of Roses as Currie Cup reaches boiling point with Cheetahs hosting Pumas in final

FILE - The Currie Cup trophy on display after last year’s final between the Pumas and Griquas in Kimberley. Photo: Charle Lombard/BackpagePix

FILE - The Currie Cup trophy on display after last year’s final between the Pumas and Griquas in Kimberley. Photo: Charle Lombard/BackpagePix

Published Jun 19, 2023


Cape Town — The Pumas and Free State Cheetahs will be hopeful that their big cats fire in the Currie Cup final on Saturday again, just as they did in this past weekend’s semi-finals against the Sharks and Blue Bulls.

While both teams were written off widely before kick-off because the Bulls and Sharks had their United Rugby Championship players available, they showed it would take more than big-name players to get past them.

And on Saturday (4pm kickoff) the Cheetahs and Pumas will aim for glory in South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition.

The Pumas, who beat the Sharks 26-20 in the semis, will be looking to win back-to-back Currie Cups and a claim a double swoop over the Cheetahs, who they beat in the semi-finals last year on their way to success in the competition.

The teams go into the final with a 1-1 record this year. Most recently, the Bloemfontein-based side avenged a heavy 61-21 thumping at the end of March, when they travelled to Mbombela Stadium to beat the defending champions 29-14.

What has made it even more special for the Pumas is that they had to play away in their last two matches, and had to win to stay in the hunt to retain their title.

They won their final round-robin match in Kimberley to seal third spot on the standings, and then went to Durban and beat the Sharks to make it to the final.

Now they have to beat the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein - like they beat Griquas in the final in Kimberley last season - to hold onto their title and become one of only a handful of SA teams to win back-to-back Currie Cup titles.

Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse will hope his team have put their helter-skelter performances behind them after the victory in Durban, because they won’t be able to handle the Cheetahs if they are blowing hot and cold. They will be banking heavily on their forwards to lay a platform for fullback Devon Williams and flyhalf Tinus de Beer to get front foot-ball possession.

Meanwhile, Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie will also want more of the same after his team demolished the Bulls (39-10) in front of their Bloemfontein crowd.

Veteran Ruan Pienaar showed he still has what it takes to win titles for his team. He put in a sublime performance to lead the Cheetahs to victory and will be the vital cog in getting his team over the line for their first Currie Cup title since 2019.

While Pienaar will definitely pull the strings at the back, it’s the Free State side’s forwards who will have to front up to their Pumas counterparts if they want to stay in the contest.

But with the likes of flank Gideon van der Merwe up front, the defending champions can expect a mauling charge from the home team as they look to topple them for the trophy.


IOL Sport