Province had been lethal on attack, thanks largely to their own forwards, and coach Allister Coetzee singled out his pack for their role in his side’s unbeaten record this season.
“Our pack of forwards has started to get a bit of dominance in every game we’ve played,” Coetzee said.
“We have grown and have been more accurate. On the defensive side of the breakdown, with Deon Fourie as captain and operating at openside flank, the forwards have made some unbelievable decisions.”
At times, however, Province had been subdued in the set pieces and were aware the team dominating at the breakdowns and set pieces would benefit from possession as well as setting up the attacking platforms.
“With Duane Vermeulen also playing a similar role to Deon — having a go at the breakdown and knowing when to go — he has all contributed to the way we’ve handled the breakdowns.”
The Sharks largely based their game plan on kicking, which had proved effective them, particularly when it came to transferring play to the opposition’s half.
Flyhalf Patrick Lambie had further complemented this ploy with chip kicks and grubbers through the opposition lines and it was a tactic often used against Province to crack their defence.
However, in recent weeks, Province’s back three — full back Gio Aplon and wings Cheslin Kolbe and Gerhard van den Heever — had sprung penetrative counter-attacks.
Coetzee felt Kolbe’s arrival in the team had brought out the best in seasoned players like Aplon and Van den Heever.
“Cheslin has unlocked players like Gio Aplon and Gerhard van den Heever and we’ve seen how they have used open space after our opponents have kicked the ball into their areas.
“The way we have been treating kick possession and the manner in which we’ve worked turnover possession has also been a major improvement for us.”
The Sharks though, had done their homework and backline coach, Sean Everitt, said they were mindful of Province’s strengths.
“We have seen how dangerous Kolbe and Aplon can be,” Everitt said.
“Those two players had the most line-breaks in the semi-final against the Golden Lions, so we are going to have to watch them.
“If we can nullify the likes of those players, they are going to have to work really hard to score tries against us. We’ve worked hard on ways to contain their game-breakers.”
Cape Town-based Jonathan Kaplan would referee the match marking his swansong from the professional game.
His rulings early in the match could set the tone for the final in which, for the first time in the history of the 122-year-old Currie Cup competition, there was a cash prize on offer.
The winning team would pocket R1.8-million and lift the trophy which had recently been restored to its 1891 glory.