The coaches of this year’s two Vodacom Cup finalists are playing down the competition’s R1m prize money and placing the emphasis on winning the trophy.
News24 reports that the Blue Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs meet in the 2008 final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria at 19:10 on Friday.
The Blue Bulls will be playing in their sixth Vodacom Cup final whilst the Cheetahs will be making only their second final appearance. Both sides have won the title once since 1998.
“It is a great incentive but if you only focus on the money you could come up short,” said Blue Bulls coach Nico Serfontein. “We are not used to playing for prize money in South Africa. We are trying not to focus on the money but on the trophy and the memories of playing in – and hopefully winning – the final”.
Free State coach Pine Pienaar said winning the R 1m would be a bonus.
“We are focused on winning the Cup and have not spoken much about the money. There is prestige in being champions and it will be a great privilege for the players to be Vodacom Cup winners,” Pienaar said.
The two finalists met in the league competition in March with the Blue Bulls winning comfortably 68-22. However, neither coach is using that match as a yardstick for the final.
“The Bulls taught us a lesson, but we learned from it and improved from that game onwards”, said Pienaar. “We will be confident going into the final especially after our semi-final win over Western Province”.
Came back strongly
“The ball bounced in our favour in the league match,” said Serfortein. “All of our plans worked out and we were fortunate to get a few tries in the first ten minutes, which put them under pressure. But they came back strongly to score three tries in the final 20 minutes so we won’t take them lightly in the final”.
Both teams have young squads that improved greatly in the latter stages of the Vodacom Cup season.
Serfontein attributed the Blue Bulls’ slow start to his players getting used to the new laws and how they should be played. “We gained momentum midway through the season after beating Boland 27-18. From there we grew in confidence and developed as a team”, he said.
“We had some good performances early on against the Lions, Leopards and Falcons but we lost our way with big losses against the Bulls and Griquas,” said Pienaar. “Luckily we put things right and finished well with wins over Boland and WP
“The Blue Bulls have home advantage in the final but the pressure is on them because the fans expect them to win. We will go out and play to our abilities and hopefully come away with a result,” said Pienaar.
“Being favourites does not suit our mentality,” said Serfontein. “For us it’s more about being humble and working hard”, he said.
The match will be the fourth Cup final between the two provinces in as many years after they met in three consecutive Absa Currie Cup finals between 2005 and 2007.
Free State also have the chance of making history by becoming the first Province to hold the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup at the same time.