Twelve years ago Western Province hosted the Natal Sharks in the Currie Cup final at Newlands in a thrilling finale to the competition. That was the last time the union hosted the final, and to their delight they registered a 29-24 victory.
While this will have little significance for the defending champions, Western Province, when they meet The Sharks in Cape Town on Saturday in a repeat of the 2001 final, die-hard fans may see this as a good omen for the team that remains the only unbeaten side in the competition this season.
Western Province, however, will take comfort from the fact that that they registered victories in both round-robin matches against the Durban side this season, albeit by small margins, and defeated them in last year's final.
Both teams have been strengthened by their Springboks and will be determined to win the competition and the R1,8m winner's cheque, but given the fact that the battles between them have been closely matched in the last few years, the clash is expected to be epic.
Western Province have won seven of the last 12 matches between the sides, two of them this season, but interestingly only three of their victories have been in Cape Town.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee this week named an unchanged team for the final, with 2012 Currie Cup-winning captain Deon Fourie again handed the honour of leading the side after recovering from a troublesome muscle in his neck. Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers, who will feature in his 50th match for Western Province, will serve as his deputy.
With play-makers Gio Aplon, Cheslin Kolbe and the dependable Demetri Catrakilis and Duane Vermeulen appearing among other star players in the starting team, and Springboks Schalk Burger and Juan de Jongh providing cover on the bench, the team will enter the match with confidence.
The Sharks team is of an equally high quality with Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie, centre Frans Steyn and hooker Bismarck du Plessis featuring among several national players. To the coaching staff's delight Bok props Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis and looseforward Willem Alberts have also recovered from injury and will strengthen their pack.
On the bench centre Heimar Williams, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and veteran looseforward Jacques Botes are expected to make a valuable impact when they take to the field.
With the teams boasting two of the best tight-five's in the competition, backs who have the potential to create opportunities from nothing, and reliable flyhalves, the clash should be tight in every sense. The set pieces, in particular, will be decisive, while goal-kickers Lambie and Catrakilis will play key roles as every point will be invaluable. With the likes of Kolbe, Aplon and Springboks Lwazi Movo and Steyn at bay, the backs will also look to make their presence felt.
Commenting on the final, Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said: "Being at Newlands is fantastic, but there are no guarantees. We have to be even better than last Saturday against the Golden Lions. We have to start better and we have to stay in it for 80 minutes. We don't want to be in a situation in a final where you take long to work yourself back and regain your dominance."
Sharks coach Brad Macleod-Henderson also adopted a cautious attitude ahead of the clash and said: "Rugby is a physical sport and every week the collisions are important, and winning those will going to be key to getting a victory on Saturday.
They (Western Province) have a quality experienced pack which has been finding a lot of good ball, and some electrifying backs out wide. But we're worrying about them as a team rather than individuals at the moment. We just need to make sure that physically we will be up for it – no doubt we will be."
Currie Cup final
Western Province vs The Sharks
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant Referees: Christie du Preez, Stefan Breytenbach
TMO: Deon van Blommestein
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Date: 26 October 2013
Western Province: Gio Aplon; Gerhard van den Heever, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe; Demetri Catrakilis, Louis Schreuder; Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Deon Fourie (captain); De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth; Pat Cilliers, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Frans Malherbe, Brok Harris, Michael Rhodes, Schalk Burger, Nic Groom, Kurt Coleman, Juan de Jongh.
The Sharks: SP Marais; Odwa Ndungane, Louis Ludik, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo; Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod; Keegan Daniel (captain), Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee; Pieter-Steph du Toit, Peet Marais; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Danie Mienie, Stephan Lewies, Jacques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Fred Zeilinga, Heimar Williams.