Brag­ging rights high on mates’ agenda for fi­nal

Daily Dispatch - - SPORT -

When they were kids, Juan­dre Ru­dolph and De Wet Kruger used to go ham­mer and tongs at each other in back­yard rugby in their na­tive Oudt­shoorn. Now the two loosies get to do it for real for the iCol­lege Pu­mas and Tafel Lager Gri­quas, re­spec­tively, in the Su­perS­port Rugby Chal­lenge fi­nal.

While it won’t be the first time they’ve played com­pet­i­tive rugby against each other – Kruger and his younger brother, Toy­ota Free State XV cen­tre Ter­tius, were in the Shim­las team that beat Ru­dolph’s Pukke in the 2015 Var­sity Cup fi­nal – the stakes are that much higher this time around.

For starters Sun­day’s fi­nal will be played at the Bridg­ton Sports Grounds in Oudt­shoorn, mean­ing the two will be play­ing for brag­ging rights in front of old friends and fam­ily. Add the R500,000 prize-money on of­fer to the win­ner and the fact that Ru­dolph lost the last fi­nal and there’s a fair bit on the line.

Ru­dolph, who was last in Oudt­shoorn when the Pu­mas had a bye to visit his fa­ther Ger­rit, the Oudt­shoorn High School deputy prin­ci­pal who was also Kruger’s coach, said he had been ex­cited to find out he was go­ing back home for the fi­nal.

“I was re­ally ex­cited when I first heard be­cause it would be nice to see some old friends again, let alone play in front of them,” said the open­side flanker. “I played at Bridg­ton when I was in pri­mary school and one or two games against Bridg­ton Se­nior Se­condary about eight years ago.”

Kruger, whose par­ents moved with him and his brother to Bloem­fontein when they fin­ished school, said it was more mixed feel­ings that he felt at go­ing back: “I played a lot of school games there so it would be nice to play in front of old friends from school.”

While Kruger said the two hadn’t ex­changed pleas­antries about the up­com­ing game, Ru­dolph said he was al­most look­ing for­ward more to the beer than the game against the Gri­quas util­ity loose-for­ward, who has played open­side flank as well as the other two po­si­tions in the loose-trio.

“It’s al­ways nice to play against old friends,” said Ru­dolph. “Ob­vi­ously dur­ing the game it’s tough and you do what­ever you have to do to win. But af­ter the game you visit each other in the change-room and have a few beers to­gether. That’s what I’m look­ing for­ward to.”

Com­ing from Oudt­shoorn, both had to travel far and wide to be­come pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers – Ru­dolph via a bur­sary to Pukke, and Kruger af­ter snub­bing the shot­put and dis­cus in ath­let­ics in favour of rugby in Bloem­fontein.

Look­ing at the fi­nal, Kruger said Gri­quas weren’t putting pres­sure on them­selves to win just be­cause it was their sec­ond fi­nal in a row: “I think if we put pres­sure on our­selves it’ll take the fun out of it. Ob­vi­ously as pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers there is pres­sure, but we need to ex­e­cute the game­plan and let the rest take care of it­self.”

Ru­dolph said reach­ing the fi­nal un­beaten in 10 games had given them a shot in the arm about their ca­pa­bil­i­ties: “It’s given us a bit of con­fi­dence be­cause we know that the game­plan works and that we’ve put in the hard yards.

“But Gri­quas are also a very good team who did well to make the fi­nal com­ing from a tough pool which pre­pared them for the knock­out stages, even though past re­sults in mak­ing the fi­nal won’t mat­ter be­cause it’s about who pitches up on the day and han­dles the pres­sure.”

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