‘Scrum battle could be decisive’

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett believes that the Golden Lions' dominant pack will prove the difference between the teams in Saturday's Currie Cup final.

Mallett was quite critical of referee Jaco van Heerden's performance following the Lions semi-final win over the Sharks, where he believed that they weren't rewarded for their complete and utter dominance in the scrums.

Speaking to Ballz radio following the semi-finals, Mallett said that a strong referee could make all the difference to the outcome to Saturday's final at Newlands.

'Logically, the Lions are the favourites going into this game, even though Western Province are playing at home,' said Mallett.

'If there's a fair refereeing performance, the Lions pack, particularly their scrum can be decisive. They've been the form pack throughout the season and you don't want to see a referee evening out the advantage that they have.

'Home-ground advantage can have a massive influence on how referee's blow 50/50 decisions. The Lions loose forwards have been fantastic on attack – great ball-carriers, great scavengers and fetchers – and you've also got Warren Whiteley's leadership skills.'

Mallett was full of praise for the job that Johan Ackermann has done at the Lions, comparing them to a New Zealand team with their approach to the game and their ability to play for 80 minutes.

While Mallett believes that WP are fully deserving of their place in the final, he was less enthused about the style of play that has carried them there.

'They've won games more off turning scraps into tries. Teams have kicked badly against them, teams have played and turned over ball, and Province have profited from that.

'Their scrum has been fairly rickety throughout the season and the Bulls put them under pressure this past weekend. Their lineout was particularly poor against the Sharks. I know it was the second-string team out there, but there are question marks over their lineout variations.

'If Western Province are going to win this game, they're going to have to turn over a lot of ball from the Lions' attack and utilising those quick guys in the back three, who can score from anywhere.'

Listen to the full interview here

Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images