The first time these two sides met in a Carling Currie Cup final was way back in 1956, when Northern Transvaal (as the Vodacom Bulls were called) travelled to Kingsmead in Durban to take on the erstwhile Natal (nowadays the Cell C Sharks).
It was a different time in South Africa’s history, as well as in the sport of Rugby Union, with tries still worth only three points, and things such as eight-man benches and lifting in the lineouts unheard of.
The Bulls managed to win the coveted gold trophy for only the second time in their existence (they were founded in 1938) by beating the men in black and white by 9-8 in a tense match.
It would be 34 years before these sides would meet in a final again…
The “Banana Boys” had a great season as they celebrated their 100th anniversary, but were still rated as rank underdogs when they went to Pretoria for the final in 1990, with Naas Botha and his all-conquering blue machine massive favourites at a packed Loftus Versfeld.
The men from Pretoria finished top of the log with 12 wins and a draw from their 14 matches, while the Durnanites were second, with 11 wins, a draw and two defeats during the league phase of the competition.
In what will go down as one of the biggest upsets in Carling Currie Cup history, the Cell C Sharks turned the tables with Tony Watson’s try down the right wing – and a subsequent penalty goal from the halfway line by Joel Stransky for an infringement after the wing had scored – leading to an 18-12 win and massive celebrations in Pretoria (and Durban).
Apart from converting the Watson try, Stransky slotted four penalty goals, while the home team’s points came via Gerbrand Grobler (try and penalty goal) and Botha (conversion and drop goal).
The Vodacom Bulls would have to wait another 13 years for revenge on their coastal counterparts though…
In 2003, the Vodacom Bulls were defending the title they won a year earlier and finished top of the standings with 11 wins from their 14 matches for 55 log points, with the Cell C Sharks second on 10 from 14 (52 points).
As it was a Rugby World Cup year, there were no semi-finals and these two sides headed straight to the final at Loftus Versfeld, where the home team proved much too strong, winning by 40-19.
The late Ettienne Botha, a midfielder with magic feet, scored two tries for the men in blue, which equalled the record for tries scored in a Carling Currie Cup final at the time.
Their other tries were scored by Johan Roets, Gavin Passens and Fourie du Preez, while Louis Strydom added three conversions and three penalty goals.
The Cell C Sharks’ points came via tries by Deon Kayser, AJ Venter and Dave von Hoesslin, with Butch James converting two.
Five years later though, Durban was the destination for the Vodacom Bulls…
In 2008, the Cell C Sharks topped the Carling Currie Cup log with 57 points (12 wins and two defeats), with the Vodacom Bulls second with 11 wins and three defeats for 53 points.
The Durbanites knocked the Xerox Lions out in the semi-finals and the Vodacom Bulls did the same to the defending champions, the Toyota Cheetahs, to book their tickets to Durban.
This time it was a close affair with the home team making the most of their advantage in the “Shark Tank” to win 14-9.
Ruan Pienaar and Frans Steyn scored tries for the Cell C Sharks, and Pienaar and French international Fred Michalak added a conversion apiece.
All the Vodacom Bulls’ points came via the boot of Morné Steyn, who slotted two penalty goals and a drop goal.
While a few players from that final are still active in South Africa – notably Frans Steyn and Pienaar, who play for the Toyota Cheetahs, and Jannie du Plessis with the Xerox Lions – Morné Steyn is the only one who is likely to play again this weekend.