South Africa | WP v Sharks rivalry now one of SA's biggest, has been 'brewing for a while'

When we talk about traditional rivalries in South African domestic rugby, Western Province v the Bulls - north v south - stands out as one of the most sentimental and historic.

The Bulls v Lions - the Jukskei derby - is another of epic proportions. 

Both of those rivalries date back decades to the earliest of Currie Cup days, but in the professional era a fixture that has become equally important to the players and fans is the coastal derby between Western Province and the Sharks

It is difficult to explain why, but if you speak to die-hard Sharks fans in KwaZulu-Natal, it would not be surprising to hear the majority of them say that beating Western Province or the Stormers was a priority in any season or competition. 

Sharks fans hate losing to WP, and that feeling is very much mutual. 

On Saturday, at Newlands, the sides will meet in the semi-finals of what has been the most unique Currie Cup due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Two group fixtures between the sides in 2020 - one under the banner of Super Rugby Unlocked and one the Currie Cup - were scrapped last year as a result of coronavirus safety protocols. 

And with Western Province potentially saying a final 'goodbye' to Newlands, this contest could be drenched in emotion and highly charged as a result. 

A look at the playoff history between the sides reveals that picking a winner is incredibly difficult - they have each won four of the eight Currie Cup finals they have contested since 1995 - and WP coach John Dobson acknowledges that these fixtures have been somewhat of a "lottery" to call in recent years. 

Speaking to the rivalry between the sides, Dobson argued that it was now at the point where it had become as significant to the players as the 'north v south' derby is.

"The rivalry between Western Province and Sharks has been brewing for a while now," the coach said. 

"The guys feel it and there is a rivalry between the two teams that has grown beyond the traditional rivalries.

"Back in the old days it was us and Transvaal and us and the Bulls and now there is a lot on this game in terms of that.

"The guys know each other well and there are some rivalries out there which should make this quite spicy."

Dobson believes that the movement of players between unions - particularly from Western Province to the Sharks - was a contributing factor to the heightened intensity of the rivalry. 

One of the Sharks' key signings going into 2020 was highly-rated loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe from WP while wings Leolin Zas and Kobus van Wyk were also relatively recent transfers to Durban. 

"That's definitely a factor," Dobson said.

"We had it before when we played against Griquas in the old guys where a lot of guys who didn't make it with us moved to Griquas.

"When guys play against their old teams, they lift themselves and get in our faces.

"I'm very close to Notshe and it's going to be interesting. I know that he will play out of his skin and he'll try everything he can … it's a beautiful part of sport."

In another twist, WP captain Siya Kolisi has been heavily linked with a move to the Sharks after his contract in Cape Town expires at the end of October.


Substitutes (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Ruhan Nel, 24 Sazi Sandi, 25 Tristan Leyds

Substitutes: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Manie Libbok

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