DHL Western Province backline stars Nic Groom, Seabelo Senatla and Cheslin Kolbe were part of last year’s Absa Currie Cup-winning team and all three players are relishing the opportunity of representing their union in a big final once again.
DHL WP will head to Emirates Airline Park to take on the unbeaten Xerox Golden Lions on Saturday (kick-off 13h45), as they look to defend their title for the first time since Corné Krige’s Province team went back to back in 2000/01.
Scrumhalf Nic Groom, 25, will be involved in his fourth Absa Currie Cup Final in succession – having also tasted Vodacom Cup success in 2012 – and he is determined to make it count once again.
“Any double effort is a special achievement,” said Groom, when asked about his side’s chances of successfully defending their title.
“Perhaps teams do struggle (to defend their title) because they don’t have the desire – something which counts for plenty in a tight game! Desire certainly won’t be our problem this week… we’re hungry and have a real desire to emulate some great Province teams from before.
“We’ve spoken about what it means to go back to back, but it’s not (just) about going back to back in terms of titles and wins but following up with what we do on the field and off the field.
“It’s a very personal drive. Not a lot of people can be the best in the country two years in a row in many things – nevermind the toughest domestic competition in world rugby. So, for us a group, that desire… you know, I think we want to leave a legacy of our time at Province and if you want to do something special then going back to back is almost a necessity.”
Groom has amassed 68 caps for DHL WP since his debut in 2011 and he explained further: “Playing for DHL Western Province comes with its privileges, but also with its standards. We all knew about the hoops of Western Province before the Stormers (came into existence) and I think a lot of supporters have the same memories and love for the Blue & White hoops.
“Representing Province and getting a chance to play a good and exciting brand of rugby in a great tournament like the Absa Currie Cup… I couldn’t think of anything better for a young rugby player,” he added.
“We play for DHL WP wanting to win the Absa Currie Cup. The Disa means a lot to us and the people of Cape Town, but whenever we go to Johannesburg – and you could see it in Pretoria last weekend – there’s a huge base of fans, all of whom we can hear and appreciate. It’s a big deal for us and helps motivate us.”
However, standing in their way this Saturday is the table-topping and unbeaten Xerox Golden Lions outfit and Province are aware of the massive challenge of playing against the form team on their own turf.
Groom told the www.wprugby.com website: “The Lions have sort of had the same side without many players coming or going for the last three years now and they play a slick running and passing game… I think they are leading the way in a lot of respects there.
“They’re also well motivated and super fired up and (are) almost double the intensity when they play in Johannesburg, so that’s a big challenge for us and something we didn’t deal with the last time we went there (to Emirates Airline Park).
“They are a passionate group who take a lot of pride from playing at home where they deserve to be playing at the moment,” added Groom. “They have been the best team in the competition thus far, but at this stage it’s an uncontrollable, really, where we play.”
Of course, the last time DHL WP played in Johannesburg they suffered a 32-62 defeat at the hands of the Lions, but Groom believes Province’s resilience will count for something come the weekend.
“I don’t think we would be here if we couldn’t,” he said, “(and) I think our turnaround in the semifinal away from home (last week), after losing by 30 points two weeks before, showed this group’s resilience.
“Nothing great ever happens in ideal circumstances, so we will take a lot of heart from that.
“To become successful you need to learn from every single outing… It was a horror game for us where nothing went right for us and the only thing we took from it was lessons – plenty of lessons!”
SA Sevens speedster Seabelo Senatla will play in his 17th match for Province on Saturday, having scored eight tries for the Men in Blue & White hoops in two seasons – including five this term.
“Last year we had a smoother run-in to the final, which of course was at home, whereas this year we’ve had to fight a bit harder (to make it),” said Senatla, ahead of the 2015 Absa Currie Cup Final.
“The Golden Lions are the form team in the 2015 Absa Currie Cup and deserve to be hosting the home final. They play off (their) momentum, so we would need to stop them from getting on the front foot on Saturday.”
Fullback Cheslin Kolbe is the name on everyone’s lips after his Man of the Match-winning exploits last Friday – his second-half try and try assist helping DHL WP to a memorable 23-18 semifinal win over the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Pretoria.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the modest and softly-spoken Kolbe commented: “Everything comes down to attitude in rugby.
“We’re a young bunch of guys, but we’re hungry and we’re constantly striving to be better than the week before,” added the hot-stepping No.15, who has played 38 games for DHL WP since 2013.
“Personally, it’s always a privilege to wear the Blue & White stripes… It’s been a tough season at times, but that can only make us stronger and we will continue to draw energy from each other and continue to play for each other (out there).”
The DHL Western Province team, to face up to the unbeaten Lions on Saturday at 13h45, will be announced by lunch-time on Thursday.
The DHL WP U21s, meanwhile, will also – like the Senior team – be playing in a fourth final in a row. Their match gets underway at 11h15 in Johannesburg on Saturday, with their team announcement also taking place on Thursday (later in the day).
* The Province team will depart for Johannesburg on Thursday evening and fans are encouraged to wish them well at the aiport. SEE MORE HERE!