Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer


Currie Cup final: The game breakers for the Cheetahs and Pumas

It is set to be another close game between the two sides, which may be decided by one of the team’s game breakers.


It is gearing up to be a grand finale as the Cheetahs host the defending champions, the Pumas, in the final of the 2023 Currie Cup at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 4pm).

The two sides have battled out some thrilling encounters against each other in recent times, with the Pumas winning their last three games in Bloemfontein, although the Cheetahs won their most recent clash in Mbombela.

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It is thus set to be another close game between the two sides, which may be decided by one of the teams’ game breakers.

Here we look at each side’s most dangerous players going into the final.

Cheetahs

Ruan Pienaar

The evergreen Ruan Pienaar at just 39 years old showed exactly why class is permanent as he starred for the Cheetahs in their thumping 39-10 semi-final win over the Bulls last weekend.

Playing at flyhalf, his 22-point contribution deservedly earned him the man-of-the-match award and he will be keen to celebrate the signing of a one year contract extension with the union in style with a Currie Cup win.

Pienaar will also know just how dangerous the Pumas can be and his experience could be integral in them claiming the title.

Tapiwa Mafura

Scintillating outside back Tapiwa Mafura might not be all that well-known in South African rugby but he has the potential to light up the final.

Mafura will be a key counter-attacking cog for the home side as the fullback will be tasked with handling the Pumas’ strong kicking game, and will have to be at his best.

It has been another good season on the try scoring front as well for Mafura, with him tied second on the list with six tries and he will be eager to add a few more to his name in the final.

Tapiwa Mafura
Tapiwa Mafura of the Cheetahs. Picture: Charle Lombard/Gallo Images

Gideon van der Merwe

Gideon van der Merwe has enjoyed a barnstorming season for the Bloemfontein based side and the loose forward will be looking to finish his season on a high in the final.

Van Der Merwe’s work at the breakdown has been superb over the campaign, while he has also had an eye for the tryline and is joint top of the try scoring charts with seven so far.

He will be part of a strong loose trio in the final that will be tasked with troubling the Pumas throughout the match.

Pumas

Devon Williams

Veteran fullback Devon Williams will be a key player in the Pumas’ quest to defend their title.

Williams is a huge part of the team’s kicking and counter-attacking game, with his scintillating runs a highlight of their attack. He has had a deadly campaign once again and is joint top of the try scoring charts with seven tries to his name.

Williams also ran on for his 100th Pumas appearance earlier in the season and will be keen to end off on the perfect note with a second Currie Cup title.

Diego Appollis

Young inside centre Diego Appollis has enjoyed a breakout season for the Pumas and will be aiming to end his time at the union with another title.

Last year the then 21-year-old left the Bulls for regular game time and has since become an integral part of the Pumas midfield over the last two seasons.

He has racked up six tries this campaign so far and has impressed enough that the Sharks have signed him for the coming season, and he will want to show why in the final.

Kwanda Dimaza

Big Pumas number eight Kwanda Dimaza has been slowly making a name for himself at the union and a strong season sees him front and centre going into the final.

Dimaza’s powerful carries have been important over the season in giving the Pumas consistent front foot ball, while his soft hands have helped a number of players get over the advantage line.

He will have to be at the top of his game on attack and defence on Saturday if he is to help his side clinch back to back titles.

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