There are not many Scots who have contested a Currie Cup final, although centre Huw Jones will make his second, and probably his last appearance in this afternoon’s tie. The finale of the South African domestic season sees Jones’ Western Province team take on the Sharks in Durban’s Kings Park Stadium.
With home advantage, the Sharks are marginal favourites but history, both recent and ancient, suggests that Jones may yet leave South Africa on Monday with a winners’ medal in his luggage. Should the Sharks win it would be their eighth victory in this competition, Western Province are looking for their 34th Currie Cup title!
Moreover, home advantage appears to be distinct disadvantage where these two teams are concerned. Early in the season the Sharks won 21-20 in Cape Town, two weeks ago West Province triumphed in Durban by 31-20.
“They have been good all season. They obviously finished top of the league and we finished second,” says the Scot. “They have been very clinical, while we had a topsy-turvy season but I feel that we are peaking at the right time now. I don’t think that [playing away] bothers me too much and we did beat them two weeks ago up there.
“It should be a cracker. I don’t think they will be going into the game thinking that it is already won and we certainly won’t either. We know that the Sharks have a strong kicking game and they play territory and their stand-off Curwin Bosch, he doesn’t often miss when he goes for goal. So I think the territory I going to be massively important.
“The stand-off battle is going to be very important. Territory will be massive for us and also discipline. We can’t give them easy penalties in our half where they can just kick for goal or it will be a long afternoon.”
Bosch is a young stand-off who has kicked four drop-goals already this season, including one in the semi-final. He is up against Western Province 10 Robert du Preez, who just happens to be the son of the Sharks’ coach, former Springbok, also Robert du Preez. What do they say about civil wars always being the bloodiest!
Jones will fill the No 12 shirt tomorrow despite a stated preference for starting one wider but having added flexibility in his midfield can only help Gregor Townsend’s cause.
While most of the South African finalists will head to the beach for a well-earned rest at the end of a long and hard season, Jones will hop on a plane to Edinburgh where he will join the Scotland squad in preparation for playing two of the three best teams in world rugby, New Zealand and Australia, in addition to the highly physical Samoans.
Jones insists he is looking forward to the autumn series and he did make quite a splash this time last year, scoring a try against the Wallabies just seven minutes into his Murrayfield debut.
“I suppose I had the same experience last year and it seemed to go quite well,” he says modestly. “What has been a blessing in disguise is the injury I had at the end of the Six Nations that kept me out for about five months. I missed the whole of Super Rugby, I didn’t play any of those games.
“I didn’t get a break because I was doing rehab the whole time but my body got a break from the physicality of the games. So now I still feel relatively fresh and I am looking forward to the Tests.
“I didn’t play the first three Currie Cup games but I have played every game since then, eight or nine games, about two months of rugby.”
Jones is naturally excited to be joining Dave Rennie’s Glasgow squad as and when the autumn internationals are behind him, especially so since his one Super Rugby encounter with Rennie’s former team the Chiefs ended in a 60-point drubbing he has not forgotten.
Moving to Glasgow is a big step for the 23-year-old but this is a man who, upon leaving school, set out on his own and ended up on the other side of the world. South Africa has been the making of him as a player and he will surely miss it.
“It definitely made me as a player and as a person really because I moved here straight out of school by myself and I have been here since,” says a reflective Jones. “It is the only place I have known since leaving school. As an adult, Cape Town has been home. I will be very sad to leave this place. It is a beautiful city, but I am also looking forward to the next stage of my career.”